Memory Monday: Caught in the In-Between

Whew. The Thanksgiving weekend is over. I don't know about you, but I found it hard to pull myself out of bed this morning. After all the turkey, shopping and family get-togethers, I could use another day off. Plus, the weather has turned cold, and giving up my cozy spot under the blankets is an act of will power. My house is stuck in the in-between state of half Christmas, half Thanksgiving. I haven't yet taken down all of the fall decorations, but I've put up a few of the Christmas ones. The tree is up, but so is our Thanksgiving wall. I have a gigantic Joy sitting on my mantel, but there's a scarecrow in my kitchen. The Christmas lights are lighting up the night sky, but my girls still have pumpkins on their doors.

This week, I'll slowly switch over the decorations to all Christmas, but I think sometimes we also get stuck in the in-between during this season of the year. While Christmas is a holiday filled with joy and celebration, it's also often a season of mixed emotions.

This is the time of year when we miss most the family members who aren't here. Whether they are in a different part of the country or they have died or may even be deployed in harm's way, Christmas is when their absence hits home the most. We know we should enjoy the season. We should make the holiday special for our kids. But some days it's tough because we really don't feel that way. We simply feel sad, and we miss our loved ones. We're stuck in that place in between joy and sadness.

If your family is experiencing the emptiness left by a death, an illness or a famly member separated by distance, don't just ignore it and act like it doesn't matter. If that person was special to you, then your kids are probably feeling the loss, too. Take some time to acknowledge the feelings and to know that, yes, this Christmas will be different. It will feel different. There may be tears. And that's OK.

Help your kids understand it's OK to feel sad, even though it's Christmas.

  • Talk with your kids about the person you are missing. Don't act like they didn't exist or that everything will be the same. Be honest with your kids about how you are feeling about the situation. It's fine for your kids to see you being sad. It gives them permission to be sad, too.
  • Remember the good stuff. Share the happy memories of holidays past when that special person was around. Remember the time Uncle George dropped the cranberries at dinner. Or the time Grandpa tried to play Wii and threw the remote at the TV. Amidst the sadness, you may find laughter.
  • Remind your kids that God is the great Comforter. He knows what it is to be sad -- after all, His Son died. God's comfort is even a reason for joy. Isaiah 19:13 says "Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones."

So, if your family is caught in the in-between -- that place between joy and sadness -- this Christmas season, acknowledge it. Remember the person you miss. And reach out to God and each other for comfort. This Christmas will feel different, but you can still find joy in the birth of Jesus.