Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Celebrating Christmas while dealing with loss

Published:Saturday | December 23, 2017 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell

For some families, the above lyrics are a painful reminder of the grief and loss they are going through. Celebrating is the last thing on their minds, as they must contend with the reality that they have lost loved ones - be it through sickness or violence.

While the pain is current and raw for some, others have to deal with painful memories, as the approaching season reopens old wounds.

It is not an easy thing to observe those going about their merry ways enjoying themselves, while your heart is being shattered in a million pieces, wondering how you can make it through without falling apart.

For answers on surviving the season without falling apart, Family and Religion reached out to pastor and counsellor Valrie Campbell-James of the Savanna Church of God of Prophecy.

She readily admits that there is no easy way to go through this type of situation: "Whether the loss took place at Easter, summer or any other time, the grieving process would have been the same. While grief is grief, it is much harder when you have all the buzz and excitement around you and you are detached from it all."

James said that persons grieving should just focus on getting through one day at a time. If they are not in the mood for any Christmas celebrations, then they should not try to force it. Nor should they feel guilty wondering if they are putting a damper on others around them.

"It is important to take as much time as possible to deal with whatever they are going through. It would help, too, if friends and other relatives make a special effort to reach out to them."

James said that a good way would be by encouraging them to talk about the loss, giving them the opportunity to relive fond memories or just reminiscing on things they liked about the departed person.

"If they really don't want to take part in any dinner or the festivities you have planned, don't push too much. But try not to leave them alone; sitting with them or even being around in the home would speak volumes," said James, noting that just knowing there is someone around can be a sense of comfort for those who are grieving.

It is traditional for family dinners to take place in the season, and with a key member of the family gone, there will be the desire to engage in that kind of activity. James encourages relatives in that scenario to change tradition and, instead of having dinner around the table, she said that a good idea would be to plan a cookout instead or just do something different. This makes it much easier for persons who suffered loss to not dwell on what "used to happen".


For those who are going through fresh loss, James said that they should not bottle the feelings of loneliness, hurt and pain inside: "Encourage them to cry, vent, whatever it will take to help them get the pent-up emotions out."

James said that she can't image the kind of pain those left behind are feeling right now when they recall the horrific killings that have taken place just days before Christmas. It is a time now, she said, when the church must make a special effort to visit the homes of those they are familiar with who are facing this kind of trauma, and let Christmas be about 'presence' and not 'presents'.

"Jesus' birth offers hope, and for those enduring this kind of pain in their lives, the season would be a good one to show them love by reaching out to them. They may not be able to see past the pain now, but later on they will appreciate your reaching out," James concludes.