We talk about trimming the Christmas tree but we mean we are decorating it. I’d like to talk about “trimming” in its more customary meaning – to cut off or to prune, as one does with a shrub. Trimming my hair means cutting off some and shaping it for a pleasing look (as much as possible, anyway). A very useful strategy for grieving people during the holiday season is to trim down the todo list to create the most beneficial and meaningful weeks to celebrate Jesus. We all complain about the stress and busyness of “the holidays.” Grieving parents are already stressed and overwhelmed without adding more activity and responsibility to their lives. So grieving parents must manage their activities during this season carefully and thoughtfully. Here are some guiding principles that I hope will help:
- If it is necessary for the holidays to BE holidays, do it.
- If it is beneficial, do it.
- If you can live without it, don’t do it.
- If it hurts, don’t do it.
- If it is biblically mandated, do it. Something in this category is certainly going to be beneficial and healing, just the sort of activity you need to be involved in. This includes some time to worship. I know that the usual Christmas services could be overwhelming – with crowds and joyful music. Try to find a local “blue Christmas” service, planned for people just like you - hurting people. Plan to go to the smallest, probably the earliest, service at your church. Avoid the crowds but go and worship this God who came near. That’s what we are celebrating.
- Think about what you can do in memory of your child. I know someone who gives toys to a school or a shelter, toys appropriate for the age of her son when he died. Connect this giving with your child’s interests or character.
Another way of thinking about accomplishing this goal of managing your diminished resources of time, energy and emotional strength is the word: Simplify. Simplify the meals. Simplify the gift giving list. Simplify the Christmas greeting list – send one card or simple annual letter to fewer people. Simplify the decorations, if any at all. Simplify.
You will receive many invitations to various gatherings or events. You DO NOT HAVE TO GO to all of them. I hereby give you permission to say “not this year” to any or all invitations. Choose what you can and want to do – what will benefit your hurting heart. Simplify! If you choose to go to a gathering or event, I also give you permission to leave as soon as you need to. You are not obligated to stay to the “bitter end.” Stay as long as being with those people benefits you and contributes to your healing. Let the host know from the beginning, when you accept the invitation, that you are glad to participate as long as you have some freedom to depart before it hurts. It is good to go, if you possibly can, rather than withdraw from everyone, because someone will say something comforting or share a story about your child. That will be a blessing.
Earlier this week we talked about delegating. Trimming is the second strategy for grieving parents to use so that they can survive the holiday rush. You can not only survive but you can get the most benefit from the meaningful activities you chose to participate in. May God bless your heart through these next few weeks.