Can Parents in Pain Really Celebrate the Holidays?

Focus on This

rockwellCan you remember when a special event was ruined for you because of something bad that happened? Maybe it was your birthday. Maybe it was Christmas.

I remember when this happened to me. It was Thanksgiving day in 1997 – a sunny, cold fall day in central Illinois. I was up early to prepare my family’s special breakfast before we watched Macy’s Christmas parade. I look forward to it all year. The house was full of cheerful anticipation as tasty aromas wafted through the house.

Suddenly the phone rang. My world was about to come crashing down.

“Hello?” I answered, expecting it to be one of our parents wishing us a happy day, but it was rather early for them to call.

“Dena, honey,” I heard my dad’s quivering, emotional sounding voice on the other end of the hard, plastic receiver. My stomach began to sink. Something’s wrong.

My mom was doing so much better after an eight month-long illness. She was finally going home later today. I couldn’t wait to talk with her. What a wonderful day it would be.

“I’m so sorry to have to tell you this . . . but I just got a call from the nursing facility . . . and it’s about your mom . . . honey, she passed away early this morning while they were helping her get dressed.” Nooooo!!!!

Thanksgiving has never been the same. Her visitation would be on my birthday. I didn’t want to celebrate anything that year. Not Thanksgiving, my birthday or Christmas. I didn’t care.

Have you had a similar experience with one of your children? You’ve been so hurt, wounded, rejected, shocked, and disappointed that now you could care less about the holidays. No Norman Rockwell Christmas for you.

When you’re in emotional pain the thought of celebrating sounds cruel. Impossible. The holidays are coming. Can a parent in pain celebrate?

Yes. You can.

I did that year when my heart was broken. How?

I focused on the real meaning of Christmas. What is that to you?

We need to realize we won’t experience a picture-perfect scene like the one here. Many of us know this all too well. It’s no surprise.

You probably stopped looking for joy and satisfaction from gifts a long time ago.

You quit seeking it in how much you decorate or bake or shop. There’s not enough tinsel to hang on your tree or colorful lights to fill the emptiness in your heart. You can’t bake enough cookies or spend enough money to take away the ache in your gut. No credit card has a limit high enough to buy what you need. The peace you long for can’t be found under your tree or in a pretty gift bag.

For me, the real meaning is found in the Son of God; in the Prince of Peace who gives me His very own peace; the Wonderful Counselor who guides and comforts me with His wise counsel; the Lamb of God who came for me, knowing what it would mean, yet He loved me that much.

I chose to focus on this person – on these truths –  when my mom died that Thanksgiving morning. I still choose to focus on this today.

Where will you focus this holiday season?

If you’d like more information on about the true meaning of Christmas, please message me.


These Bible verses summarize it well:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life ( John 3:16).”

“And the angel said (to the shepherds), ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).”


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5 thoughts on “Can Parents in Pain Really Celebrate the Holidays?

  1. I’ve lost both parents, my dad most recently on the day before Christmas Eve a few years ago. That grief was nothing compared to the hurt and pain caused by the alcoholism of my son. He is currently estranged from us. I don’t know where he is or how he is. I know that the last we saw him, he was very sick, had finished a two week stay in rehab, but said his choice was to continue drinking, even if it meant an early death. When the phone rings, I wonder if it will be dreaded news. This is a child I dedicated to God from his conception. He has rejected all that I taught him and chosen a path of self-destruction. Celebrate Christmas? I just want to go to sleep and wake up in January, if at all …

    • I am so so sorry. I understand. Please know you’re not alone in your pain. I hope you will reach out to others and don’t stay alone in this dark place. You are grieving the loss of the hopes and dreams you had for your son. Grief is hard work and takes a toll on you, especially during the holidays. I’m praying for you now as I post this.
      May your Gentle Shepherd hold you close, dry your tears, and remind you that he “gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak… Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).” You’re probably familiar with this verse, but I pray that when you read it again it will be fresh and new. Amen.