Christmas can be a tough time for many people and I am acutely aware of this. My father died suddenly two years ago at the age of 65 and I remember that first Christmas without him. I trudged through Advent feeling like I was wading through treacle. If I could have cancelled Christmas for myself that year I would have. I felt no excitement in the Christmas preparations, whether I was buying presents or preparing for Christmas services. All I experienced was that awful sadness and emptiness that comes following the shock of sudden bereavement.

Hope came to me at the Watchnight service at my church at Muiravonside. I had asked a colleague to assist me in this service as I knew this service would be the toughest of all to conduct. I always find the Watchnight service a very ‘thin’ experience. Thin in the sense that for the few seconds before I announce that Christmas has arrived, time always seems to stand still, the veil of eternity is pulled back and I catch a glimpse of the child in the manger and I’m able to hear the echoes of that first cry.

I couldn’t announce the arrival of Christmas day to my congregation that particular year. It was too painful, too emotional, my grief too raw. And so my cheerful, kind, colleague did it for me. She sat beside me on the chancel, she helped me light the candle, she shared the reading of Scripture, she helped me pray the prayers, she announced the arrival of Christmas day, she stood beside me as we shook hands at the door.

We all need the support of others as we face our first Christmas without a loved one and so it is important that we accept all the support we can get. If you don’t feel up to writing Christmas cards this year, then don’t write any – people will understand. If you are invited to someone’s house for a cup of coffee or a meal then accept the invitation- allow others to care for you by providing nourishment for your body and soul. If you can’t face buying presents then give your family and friends money or vouchers. Be gentle on yourself, accept you won’t have the same energy and drive this Christmas. Nurture your spiritual needs, pray, read the Bible, attend a Christmas service. Our faith gives us a precious hope that one day we will see our loved one again. Help and support can also be found in bereavement counselling services which can be accessed through your GP.

My prayer is that all who find themselves facing that dreaded first Christmas without a loved one will accept the support that is available to them through the care and kindness of others. The incarnation of Christ can most often be discovered in those who are there beside us in the midst of our grief – as I discovered during that Watchnight service two years ago.
Finally if you would like me to write a personal prayer for you to help provide you with some comfort over the Christmas period then please e-mail me on the link on this website.