Christmas Without Mom: Things To Help When Grief Steals Your Joy

There’s no place like home for the holidays—except when your mother isn’t there anymore. Things that used to bring Christmastime joy can lead to devastating episodes of grief, moments that feel like someone took scissors to your heart and cut a big piece right out of it. For my friends who have lost their mothers, I grieve with you this holiday season, and pray that God will slowly restore your ability to enjoy Christmas again. But without a doubt, it’s hard.

Because let’s face it. No one loves you like your mom. A mother’s love is the only real cure for the most debilitating of life experiences, and is perhaps the most meaningful validation of our blessings. How I wish I could bring back the Christmases when, after hours of shuttling the kids around to my mother’s lovingly-planned holiday activities, I could sit across the living room from her, curled up in a comfy, oversized chair with a warm blanket, drinking the hot chocolate that she made a special trip to Starbucks to buy for me, telling her everything good and bad about my life. On these special nights, she’d help me put the kids to bed in Christmas pj’s that she had custom-ordered, and even as she struggled to divide her attention between some sappy Hallmark holiday movie and my constant talking, her listening ears were the only ones who heard me in the way that I really needed someone to hear me. Now that she’s gone, I yearn for the feeling I felt when I could tell my mother about something. There’s an awful hopelessness in realizing that I won’t ever be able to do this again. Grief is a perpetual criminal, constantly stealing the joy from life as it goes on after we lose someone we love so dearly. Especially during the holidays.

Can we ever really find the happiness in Christmas after such a devastating loss? I know my mother would want me to try, especially for the sake of my kids. So even though I don’t really have the answer, I can share some simple things that might help:

  1. Talk about your mom—through words and tears. Part of the reason grief is so painful is that so many things you wish you could share are still bottled up inside. Let them out. Talk about your mother, even when it’s uncomfortable and hard. Say her name often. Tell the stories that once made Christmas with her so special. Laugh with your kids about the good times. Share the memories. And cry when you need to. We can talk with our tears. They’re not a sign of weakness, they’re a cathartic step in the right direction on your grief journey. And they’re just another way to say “I miss you.”
  1. Carry on her holiday traditions. Did your mother love to do certain things during the holidays? Cook special treats? Watch favorite movies? Eat at certain restaurants while holiday shopping? Attend Christmas Eve family service? Carry on these traditions. I have a dear friend whose mother loved the movie, “A Christmas Story.” This year—the first holiday season after her mother passed away—my friend and her family attended the play at a local theatre as a tribute to her mom. Traditions are a special thing to share and continue as you honor your mother’s legacy each holiday season, and something that can be passed down for generations to come. If your mother had a favorite holiday tradition, carry it on.
  1. Give your mother a gift in Heaven each year. This year, the kids and I are going to begin an entirely new tradition to remember my mother (who died of breast cancer in 2015). The first gift that we open on Christmas morning will be a gift to her in Heaven. My mother had the kindest of hearts—she was a physician who dedicated her life to helping others. And her grandchildren were her greatest source of joy. They don’t yet know what it is, but my children will open a present tomorrow that will symbolize my mother’s love, kindness, work ethic, and passion for service to others. She’ll be with us each year on Christmas morning as we unwrap a gift that’s designed especially for her.

I pray for my friends who are struggling without their mothers this holiday season. I hope you will find some comfort in this post, and even though it doesn’t feel “Merry” at times, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday and that the new year is filled with loving memories of your precious moms.