Let’s talk about a practical tip for surviving the busy holiday season as a grieving parent. The season is filled with challenges, things that remind you about your child or that highlight their absence. There are the plans and invitations to school Holiday programs and the church Christmas pageant. There’s music everywhere that connects you to memories of times when they were present. There’s the shopping list – that suddenly does not have their name on it. There’s the painful moment when someone says “let’s all gather together for a picture.” The word all just points out that we are not all here – one is absent. A grieving person is exhausted by grief, has a hard time concentrating and making decisions, and can’t think as agilely as they used to. I describe this as “thinking through jello”; there is a resistance to the thought process. All those skills are necessary for Christmas shopping. So what’s a parent to do?
Delegate! Ask someone else to take your list and shop for you. Ask someone else to make the list even! Take an escort with you who can run interference for you if or when emotions begin to choke the breath out of you. Trim your gift list to just the absolute essential people. Tell them that your best effort is a gift card. Or tell them you just can’t this year at all. Do your best for your surviving kids, but you are not actually required to have a gift for anyone else.
There are other activities you can also delegate to others. Have your brother-in-law put up s few lights outside – just the bare minimum. Have your aunt get a small potted plant to act as your Christmas tree this year. Ask you niece or neighbor to come do the wrapping of whatever gifts you have managed to prepare for your family. Simplify, or cancel, the whole greeting card process this year.
Food is another category you can delegate to someone else. Canned food! Prepared foods from the deli department. Use all the helps available to you in the grocery store. A Boston Market meal isn’t bad and comes close to a traditional Christmas meal. Gather at someone else home this year. You really don’t have as much energy as you are used to, before your child’s death. Put out the best meal you can manage. The guiding word her is “manage.” Make the meal as close to your tradition, or change your whole meal plan to reduce the reminders of the one who is absent. Make your choices based on what is least overwhelming and what feels closest to helping you through the season.
None of these suggestions is the solution to your grief problem. But some of them might be helpful. The solution to grief is in the “reason for the season” – that a Savior is born in Bethlehem! The Savior came because we need Someone to save us from punishment for our sin (because we are all sinners. We all really know that deep down). So the Savior came, took our sin to the cross where the deserved punishment is paid. And by this act, the door to heaven is open, for you and me and your child. In other words, we delegated to Jesus our sin and punishment and He delegated to us an invitation to come home to Him in heaven.
Holiday strategy #1 is delegate! Do your best to surviving the holiday season by delegating to helpful friends. Do enter into the gateway to heaven by letting Jesus delegate to you His right standing before God .