First Christmas Without Them

| | | | | |

I know this time of year is hard and painful for some. Whether due to loss or loneliness or sickness, sometimes all the traditions and movies and lights and songs, bring more heartache than joy.

I get it. 2 years, 5 months and 26 days ago I lost my mom. Suddenly. And that first Christmas without her was painful and exhausting and gut wrenching.

I would like to tell you, it gets easier, but truth… When you have loved well, and been loved well, the separation of death from that person, never heals fully this side of heaven. There will come a day, when your heart heals completely, because of the beautiful and powerful work of Jesus over death. But until then, I will say that it doesn’t get easier, but rather, your grieving matures (a good friend told me this after my mom passed, and I have carried the truth of these words close ever since).

This snippet is from the Holm Christmas letter in 2016, the year my mom died. I read it every year. I revisit the place where my heart sat that year. I share it now, and if you are struggling with loss this Christmas Season, I pray it would bring hope and peace. I pray you would not feel the weight of loneliness. I pray that even in your sadness, you would find joy in Jesus, even if only a small glimmer.

“Normally the routine of our Christmas letter goes like this: I write it. Corey inserts funny comments.

When it came time to write the letter this year, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Having walked this year, words just don’t do justice to conveying emotions or thoughts or feelings.  

But I fight self-pity or apathy, and even though I didn’t want to press into this Christmas season, because it was painful, I have pushed myself into all it’s traditions; movie watching, cookie making, gift wrapping, ornaments hanging, lights, sights, sounds, smells, tastes. These were all things my mother loved and made special. And ironically, pressing into these things, has brought a comfort and peace.

It would be easy for me to summarize this year in one word, horrible. But that is not at all true, simply the wounds of my heart speaking. And if I allow myself to only speak of the hurt, I will miss the healing grace of Jesus; the abundant blessings in my life.

If I could sit down and have coffee with my mom and update her on all the “Holm happenings” I would first, not sit across from her, but rather right next to her, holding her hand. And then I would tell her, of all the good and rich things going on in our hearts and lives…

This year: we learned a lot. We understand each other in better, deeper ways. We built traditions and memories. We were stretched as parents. We laughed. We cried. We learned in a more tangible way, that time spent with the people you love is a priceless gift. We understand better the value and blessing it is to pour into our students. We learned the weight of words we speak and actions we show. We learned the simple joys are the purest gift….our toddler’s laughter and smile; Family meals together; Hugs and kisses; slow breakfasts composed of waffles or biscuits and gravy; coffee in our pajamas; sitting in church together; sharing in communion together; working in the garden together; praying together; loving Jesus together.

We loved a little better this year. And yes, we cried a little more this year. After my mom passed in June, a dear friend told me of a bible study composed by She Reads Truth. The study was to start on July 18th exactly one month after my mom died and was entitled “Mourning and Dancing”.

“We must never stop mourning brokenness. It is right to mourn. We must never cease to celebrate life and beauty. It is right to dance. Because of Christ, life comes from death. Because of Christ we will dance again.”  – Rachael Myers

This, in many ways, summarizes our last 6 months. Learning what it means to live life in this constant state of mourning and dancing, recognizing fully, the beauty and goodness of the Lord that is so evident and in so many places throughout our days. While very aware of a person missing, very aware of a hole and ache in our hearts.

But may I implore us to focus on this phrase “…because of Christ, life comes from death. Because of Christ we will dance again.” As we stood in the hospital, feeling helpless, broken, and unable to process the darkness we were feeling, as we hugged the nurses and doctors unable to verbalized our thankfulness for their tender care, as we circled and sang the doxology, giving thanks and praise where it was due, I couldn’t stop whispering “I am so thankful for Jesus”. Many of you know exactly what I am saying. When you walk through such darkness, when you aren’t sure how to process, in the mist of all of the mess, when satan thinks he has the upper hand, we have been given a gift. A beautiful, priceless gift. A selfless, humble, brave, compassionate, strong gift. A gift who has won, who brings life to darkness and will come again to make all things new, to restore all brokenness, especially the brokenness and wounds in our hearts. And this gift is Jesus. Oh how I could whisper His name all the day long and not tire of it! Let us celebrate this season our beautiful gift, Jesus. Let us celebrate the simplicity in which he left His throne and entered earth as an infant. Let us celebrate His bravery. Let us celebrate God’s indescribable love that is demonstrated through Jesus. Let us celebrate that Jesus is THE High Priest, who tore the veil in two on our behalf. Let us celebrate that His birth was just the beginning, and He will come back one day to restore, heal, mend, fix, He will repair, rebuild and reestablish HIS kingdom. We will hug the ones we have lost, our eyes will be made clear and our hearts will be made whole, all because of a love that can’t be put into words, all because of Jesus. So let’s celebrate Him this season. Wherever you find yourself, whether you have had the best year or the crappiest year, or maybe you’ve had a little of both, whatever your year has looked like, may you hold onto Jesus. Hold on to Jesus. Let Him be the joy in your present circumstance, and the hope of your future. It is life breathing to do so.”


Similar Posts


  1. Rae this resonates with the current valley my mom, sister, and I are in. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. There is something about knowing that you are not on the journey alone and that someone with a significant loss can bring perspective and insight through a similar experience. Thank you! – K

Leave a Reply