Emily Freeman
About the Author

Emily P. Freeman is a writer who creates space for souls to breathe. She is the author of four books, including her most recent release, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their twin daughters and twinless son.

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things we love
& you will too!
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Reader Interactions


  1. this is the 5th Christmas without my mom and I still sometimes want to just sit and cry….just to have one moment with her and talk about Christmas past. it’s hard to get over the hurdle.

    • Oh Patty. ME TOO. This is our 6th without mine and every year something catches my heart and I just plain ache for her.

    • Its my first without my mom. I couldn’t even put her special ornaments on the tree, it was too much just to see them. My five year old keeps telling me how excited he is that Grandma gets to be at Jesus’ birthday party for real. So precious and so true, but despite his words all I can think is that she won’t be at his baby sister’s first birthday the next week. So hard this grieving thing, Does it ever get easier?

      • Hi Carey- It does get easier – this will be my 18th Christmas without my Mom…I’m 39. It is still the hardest part of the year because there are so many memories linked to our lives between November and January. The hardest part of the 1st Christmas without her was seeing the empty chair at my grandmother’s where she had sat opening presents for all the previous years I could remember. I think it would have been easier if we’d have moved the chair just for that night. Certain things will trigger memories you’d forgotten and will likely be quite emotional…that’s normal. I miss my Mom terribly, but the tears don’t flow as easily. Focus on the family you’ll be with and try to enjoy the moments you have with them while making new memories. And rest assured this is the 1st and last time you’ll have to celebrate the 1st holiday without her…with each one it will get easier. Prayers to you and your family this Christmas.

  2. “Every year Emmanuel means something different. Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal. But God coming down to this gritty, dusty, land of the dying makes every difference in our hope for living. He is with us. He is in us. He is here.”

    This right here is just absolutely spot on gut-wrenching and hope-giving truth. I’ve been thinking tonight and talking to God a bit about Christmas for us. Christmas seems to be a time in our family where things are a little bit hard. Where we are standing raw after life has peeled off another layer. One year it was pressing on after my Mom had passed away, one year it was doing Christmas right after a miscarriage. This year my husband is deployed (again). But He is with us. He is in us. He is here. Thank you for bringing my eyes back to Emmanuel tonight.

    • I know what you mean, Val – the spot-on, hope-giving truth. We’ve got a daughter in a hospital facility – still, after 3 1/2 months, with no clue as to what’s caused her issues. But I resonated with that same line in the post. He is with us. He is in us… So grateful for that. Praying God will anoint you afresh for your single-mom Christmas as hubby’s away. Blessings…

      • Val, yes He is with you. I can’t imagine having a husband deployed (again). There are so many ways this grief can show up. So glad you have found a bit of comfort here.

        And Laurie? a daughter in the hospital with no clue what is going on? Bless you, friend. Yes, I can see how His presence with you is really the only true comfort. Thank you for speaking up here.

      • Val, yes He is with you. I can’t imagine having a husband deployed (again). There are so many ways this grief can show up. So glad you have found a bit of comfort here.

        And Laurie? a daughter in the hospital with no clue what is going on? Bless you, friend. Yes, I can see how His presence with you is really the only true comfort. Thank you for speaking up here.

  3. First Christmas in 17 years as a single woman…first Christmas my kids will spend away from their dad…painful in so many ways. But it’s also the first Christmas in so very long where we’ve put Christ first…

    Maybe it’s the aloneness that reminds me I’m not alone. So thankful for this Christmas and it’s significance…thankful for how God provides.

    • Cindy,
      I’ve been there. Not so long ago. This is my 3rd Christmas as a single woman. Its been 2 years ago this month that he was asked to leave. We split the day the last 2 years but I was okay with that since the kids woke up here with me at home. This year they are waking up with him at his place for the first time. I think I will be okay but I’m not sure really how that morning will go. At least I will be able to get dressed and just go to church that morning instead and surround myself with my ‘family’ at church. But I know your pain. I guess I can say it gets easier to walk through that pain as each holiday passes that we’ve had to share or split but it feels weird and it hurts.


    • Cindy, God takes our pain and turns it into growth. Pain brings back to life our heart and mind.Even though it feels like our heart is breaking and dying-it is the painful process of being reborn.In our lives God has NEVER left us, we have walked away from Him.I was married for 29 years to my high school sweetheart,Gods chosen one for me. I will never doubt Where God leads me in my life. I may cry out for enlightenment or help . . but I will never doubt that His path is the right one.

    • Oh, how it hurts. This is my first Christmas without my family of 3. My husband left in August, and I didn’t know it was coming. We have a 2 year old. Little man will be with me on Christmas, but I miss my best friend. So much hurt, yet still so much grace. Seeking the Father’s heart during this time is the only thing that keeps me sane. I will be thinking of you and praying for you.

  4. Two years ago, my grandfather died on Christmas day at age 93. On christmas, we not only celebrate the birth of Jesus, but his whole life. That remembers us that in Jesus we all will meet again in heaven. My grandfather has not disappeared. He just is at a different place without all the limitations a 93 year old has on earth. And he can celebrate christmas with his brothers, who died during WWII. I think, for him it is great to meet his other family again.
    But nevertheless I hope so hard that this is not the last christmas with my grandmother. And I miss my grandfather so much that I am crying again right now.
    Anyway, christmas still is a happy holiday in our family.

  5. This was beautiful and touched right where I am. First Christmas without my mom and my grandmother. My brother is trying so hard to recreate the traditions of the past this year and to keep the extended families connected. I’m actually glad that Christmas is on Sunday this year. I look forward to a breakfast with my dad and then heading out to services.

  6. This is the first year my kids won’t wake up for Christmas morning with me. They will be with their Dad. I’m not sure how I am doing with that but I’m moving forward anyway and not letting the idea of the sadness hold me down.

    I just had a Christmas card returned to me saying the address was ‘vacant’. It was for a dear friend who treated me as his own child for years when I was a young girl. We lost contact for about 15+ years until I looked him up again last year. We reconnected as if we had just seen each other the day before. I did some research on the internet after the card came back and found out that he passed away back in July this summer. He had no family, just friends but they didn’t know about me so I was never informed of his death. So, I’m struggling with this right now because I have so many questions unanswered about his death that I’m not sure I will ever get answers for since I don’t know who to ask. So this is how Christmas is different this year, I’ve never dealt with receiving a card back in the mail only to find out its due to the person dying!

  7. This will be my first Christmas without my dad. He passed away just two months ago on Christmas. Christmas was his holiday. I think he enjoyed it more than the kids. I have been floating through these weeks and dreading Christmas day. I will be praying for your family this week. For when your things are different.

  8. A week ago my cousin’s husband died of a heart attack at 32 leaving her alone to raise their 6 month old baby girl…and on Sunday my grandma died after a massive stroke. This year will be very sad for me, but I’m still thankful for the One who came Christmas day…who will one day wipe away every tear and heal every wound. This year especially, I need that hope.

  9. I needed this so much. Thank you! My mom died in February after struggling with breast cancer for 6 years. Her mother (my grandmother) is now quietly submitting to her fate after an unexpected diagnosis and rapidly advancing bone cancer. Decorating my dad’s house was so strange this year. He’s not very into all the hype and my mother had closets, upon closets, full of homemade decorations and store-bought trinkets. He did allow us to decorate the main room we will be spending our time in on Christmas Eve and some other small things were placed around the house. It was hard for me to leave my mother’s favorite items in boxes in the attic. I’m interested to see what Christmas Eve will bring. God Bless, and thank you again for this post. Merry Christmas!

  10. My son and wife are getting a divorce and this will be their first Christmas not being together to watch the kids open presents. Our son will do his Christmas on Christmas Eve, daugher in law gets Christmas day………traditions change when there is a loss. Empty nesters feel this loss too, maybe not so accute but change brought about by a death, divorce or change in living location. I am on purpose thanking God I have people I love dearly to miss. Thankful for good memories to go back to. Thankful He said He would never leave me, He there’s in my sadness, tears, lonilness daily when these hit me. Merry Christmas

  11. I know the feeling. I so do.

    Every year we go to my extended family Christmas party. Four years ago my grandpa passed away, and this party has never been the same.

    On top of that, God has been stirring some things within my husband and I over the past few Christmases that is making Christmas look a lot different than we’re used to. It’s almost painful, yet freeing at the same time.

    Painful because it’s changing how we’ve known this season to be for the last 30 years. It’s hard to grow without some growing pains.

    But it’s freeing because I feel like it sort of releases us, in a sense, from tradition and materialism and distractions.

    I have found myself crying on more than one occasion just from the sheer change of it all. It’s hard. But I know God is faithful and good and just. Blessings, Emily. 🙂

  12. Several years ago, I lost my dad two weeks before Christmas. When I called the hospital social worker to tell him he was gone she said, “Oh, how sad! And so close to Christmas.” While there’s no good time to lose one’s father, somehow being close to Christmas made it easier. That year, I could barely choke out the words, “Mild He lays His glory by; Born that man no more may die.” Death is an enemy, and Christ put on human flesh to destroy it. Each year, I see fellow believers wrestling with how to make their Christmas celebrations more Christ-honoring. I think that happens when we experience loss. We see how desperately we need Christmas. The year I lost my dad was the year I learned to love Christmas more dearly.

  13. our Christmas will be so very different this year. i decided the best thing for us, though, was to change it up. so we weren’t doing the same thing, same traditions, and that might help us not be looking for the hole that was missing.

    we celebrated Christmas early {thank you santa for honoring our request}, and then headed out of town to the beach. sure, we *feel* the hole, it will take a long time to heal. but i think it really was the best thing to move away from the normal tradition … maybe even starting new ones. 😉

    • That’s exactly how we’re handling it. A friend asked me this week what traditions we love and do every year. I said this year we’re not doing anything the same. How can we, when my little girl has been in the hospital for 3 1/2 months and we still don’t know what’s going on with her? So we’re doing everything new and different. Like you. May the Lord grace both of our families with joy and beautiful memories in our very different looking years….

  14. I understand. My mom died almost six years ago now but she was always the one who orchestrated all the traditions at Christmas for our family. There’s like a missing piece now. And yet, how thankful I am that I will see her again one day in Heaven. But the loss of loved ones is hard, especially at Christmas.

    I have been listening to a song written by Matthew West and sung by Mandisa that has been very comforting called “Sometimes Christmas Makes Me Cry”.

    So sorry for your loss.

    Blessings and love,

  15. Raw, touching post, Emily! “Every year Emmanuel means something different. Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal. But God coming down to this gritty, dusty, land of the dying makes every difference in our hope for living. He is with us. He is in us. He is here.”–so profound. He is the difference. He is the reason!
    Merry Christmas!

  16. This is our first Christmas without my dad. I miss him and it just doesn’t feel right having Christmas without him. My heart especially breaks for my mom. They were married almost 57 years and had so many Christmases together and now she is alone. She still has me and other family but Christmas morning she will be alone.
    It’s the fifth Christmas without my son. It is a little easier…. but I’ve thought of him more than usual lately.
    I take comfort in the fact that both my dad & son will be celebrating Christmas in heaven with Jesus this year.

  17. This Christmas will be the first Christmas that my toddler nephew will begin to understand the meaning of Christmas, the fun and the gifts.

    It will make me a bit sad that my grandfather is not going to be here to witness this, he would be so in love with our little guy.

    Beautiful post!

  18. Emily, I needed to read this. I’ve been eager awaiting someone, anyone, to address the loss we have at the holidays when our loved ones go on to heaven. You said it right — How do you hold the memories without falling apart? My own dad was put in the hospital right before Christmas last year, and died 3 months later with an advanced cancer he didn’t know he had. This is the first one without him, and I already know the tention and emotions are building with me and my siblings and my mom. How do we do it and not fall apart? We don’t. But we can remember that God is with us – emmanuel! He hurts with us. Thinking and praying for you!

  19. 24 years ago I learned there is beauty in grief. Here it is. Your story is beautiful. It is normal to grieve, and it’s OK to fall apart. Honor and acknowledge the absence by doing what you’ve always done. Let the pain come. There is healing through pain. I believe that’s biblical, and find the ultimate example on the Cross. Allow the pain and tears to come, and hold each other tightly. May you still find Joy in Christmas.

  20. This, too, will be our first Christmas without my father-in-law, the only grandpa my children and grandchildren ever knew. My parents died when I was 22 y/o so they never knew Christmas with grandchildren. This saddens me each year and I miss my mom’s advice on an almost daily basis. Each year seems to bring another empty seat and another bruise to an already battered heart but I rejoice to know that God loved each one even more than I did. They are spending Christmas with our King this year.

  21. “Every year Emmanuel means something different. Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal. But God coming down to this gritty, dusty, land of the dying makes every difference in our hope for living. He is with us. He is in us. He is here.”
    So true, so good…embraces the essence of Christmas!
    Thanks for sharing of Christmas and grief together. Here we are hosting my husbands’ family that lost a precious young woman to suicide this year. Knowing the pain is raw for her husband and in-laws and wanting to embrace together with them and share some healing love.

  22. This is beautiful. It is my third Christmas without my grandpa, but it feels like the first for most of us. Thank you for the reminder that even in the grief, there is beauty and healing.

    Merry Christmas.

  23. My hope for you is that someone will wear the red sweater, someone else will get the scissors, all the adults will pitch in on the treasure hunt and writing sing song rhymes… and that you turn those waves of grief coming at you into immediate prayers of heartfelt thanks for God’s love poured out through your beloved father-in-law. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  24. This Christmas my youngest cousin’s wife is in hospice care, due to a brain tumor. She is still with them, yet not really in so many respects. When hospice was called in and he notified us that she was receiving care he said, “God is Great and God is Good.” Their faith is incredible — I know God will give them His strength to carry them through —

  25. This is our first Christmas without my 37 year old son. He and his fiance’ were killed on April 23,2011 in a house fire…I love what you said:

    “Every year Emmanuel means something different. Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal. But God coming down to this gritty, dusty, land of the dying makes every difference in our hope for living. He is with us. He is in us. He is here.”

    We are not sure how to do the ‘grief’ thing either..and we are still so l raw with the sadness we are feeling, but your devotional spoke to my heart. Thank you.

  26. first Christmas without my Grandpa here too. My grandma didn’t even want to put up her Christmas tree. 🙁 Grandma gave me their Christmas lights and nativity set so I proudly put that up and smile as I think about him every night. He loved Christmas lights. I wonder if he can see them from heaven? Nah, the light up there is even better!

    I miss you Grandpa.

  27. “Raw” is right! I just came from my upper room in which I was crying because I am missing my mother who went to be with Jesus in February of this year….so this is my first Christmas without her. It still feels…. when I let it….like she died five minutes ago. More pain to let go of! It feels soooo weird that all my parents are with Jesus…..Emmanuel…..He is with us……they are with HIM…..they are not so far away after all…… This separation is temporary……100 years from now we’ll all be together. Let’s make the most of our time here and enjoy family…..and friends…..and Jesus.

  28. I weep as I read–all of your stories. Thank you for sharing. Maybe the ache I have will not be so bad. My husband went home 8 years ago and I miss him so very much-especially now. My daughter who is pregnant by a very abusive man (and due anytime now) will not be able to be with us for Christmas. Because of bad choices my sisters had her 3 year old daughter taken away from her.She is living with my sister–she got to see my daughter for an hour on Sunday–Natalie will not be with us–this is the forst time one of my children will not be with me on Christmas. Please I ask for your prayers to help heal my acheing heart and my torn apart family. I had been praying she would give this baby up for adoption–do not think this will happen.I do not even know what to pray for –thank you and many blessings, Barb God is good!!

    • Barb, my heart goes out to you! How I wish I could be there in person to provide comfort. Remember we serve a God of redemption, mercy, and grace. He knows your unspoken prayers: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
      Keep the lines of communication open, extend your love , but focus your eyes on the One who knows what it feels like to suffer (separation from loved ones and intense emotional and physical pain). Settle in to rest in His arms this Christmas. Let Him carry your burdens. I will be praying for you and your family.

  29. For me this is many years that I don’t have my mother with me, she died 13 years ago. However for my cousin’s little girls this will be there first year without her (she died suddenly and with no explanation in the summer). I know that her daughter’s, her husband, my aunt and my cousin’s siblings are struggling most through this holiday and I pray that this post will help them find strength in something that is hard for me and I know hard for them. Thank you for sharing.
    I know that my cousin and my mom are having a fabulous birthday celebration for Jesus in heaven this year.

  30. My 23 year old son joined the Marines last week. This will be the first Christmas that we won’t be spending with our three oldest children. One lives in PA, one in OH and now one in SC. We still have 4 at home, but they are teens now, and it just won’t be the same.
    Our extended family lives far and wide and we haven’t spent Christmas with any of them in a very long time.
    My Grampa would have been 96 today. He died a month ago. I always loved putting together a package for him.
    I am sorry for your lose. Holidays are always the hardest.

  31. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    And I’m so glad to find this post. I really needed it. I lost one of my grandmothers soon after Thanksgiving this year, and this first Christmas without her is going to be challenging.

  32. My younger brother died suddenly Nov. 9, leaving us all heartbroken, including three children. As I was talking on the phone a couple of weeks later to his crying 13-year old son, I read to him something I had written in a “Letter from Heaven” after my sister died several years ago. “Listen to this, Andrew,” I said.
    “Heaven is more than just a place, it is God Himself.
    If Heaven is God, and God is in your heart, then Heaven is in your heart.
    If Heaven is in your heart, and I am in Heaven, how far apart can we be?”
    I heard his sharp intake of breath, then a softly exhaled, “Wow . . . that is so cool. I bet Dad is smiling right now.”
    Our only comfort. Emmanuel – God with us.


  33. Our Christmas is different because of loss this year too. The simple fact that Christ, our only hope, walked with us as we buried a big, strong Marine is comfort enough to go on and celebrate His birth on Christmas day.

  34. My heart and prayers go out to you and your family, Emily. Thanks for your post, for sharing, for inviting your readers to share. This is our sixth year since the death of our son, and only child, and the first Christmas that we’re giving ourselves permission to NOT do “normal”. We’ve finally stopped struggling to keep up the exact same traditions and expectations for extended family. A few family members are understanding, quite a few don’t get it – and I can honestly say I don’t want them to be able to really get it. That would mean having gone through it. We’re changed, we’ve lost something so precious, but we’ve also gained our true hearts. Those of us who are dealing with grief and the empty spaces left behind that are so full of pain and longing are the true children of the advent as we know loss and waiting and hanging on to Hope for our very lives.

  35. This year I am away from my side of the family again. And it’s hard. Harder this year than it has been in years past. But I am more aware of it. I’m voicing my frustrations and setting goals and trying. I am also focusing more on the reason for Christmas – something I have struggled with in the past.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  36. Since I spent Christmas day alone last year, I faced this year thinking, “Of course, this one will be easier. This one is full. Full of people, full of laughter, full of cookies.”

    Just like you can be alone in a sea of people, Christmas can feel like another day when certain traditions or people are missing.

    Yesterday, a special anniversary of sorts for me, was the hardest but I will still miss wrapping up something for those who won’t share the day with me.

    Glad that advent ushers in the hope that we have and the growth that comes between Christmas and Easter.

    Merry Christmas Emily.

  37. We will be missing my sweet mother in law this year. She passed away in August. But we know she is celebrating our Lord’s birthday in heaven with Him, and so we will share sweet memories and rejoice in the knowledge and hope that we will someday be reunited with her!

  38. For me , last year was different and this year will be different yet again. My mother has vascular dementia and she is in the late stage of moderate/beginning stage of severe. She was still living at home with a caregiver there , but once she got over to my house to visit and help me put up decorations , she was totally lost and got angy with me for “moving those People’s things!” Well, it really hit me hard and I was very upset..I began grieving then and have continued to grieve over the last year. Even though mom has had this slowly progressing disease, and I have been watching it move steadily forward it just hit me so hard and now this year she has had to finally go to a dementia care facility to live. I continue to grieve and continue to bring mom to my house and on outings but she is futher and furthr away from me mentally and emotionally. Ocasionally however she has a lucid moment and my mother is there talking with me and having a short conversation! That’s the part that hurts the most. There are only glimpses of my mom.. once in a great while.. showing through a cloudy steamy window of demntia fog. It hurts very much but I know that in God’s scheme of things there are lessons to be learned and I am on the reciving end..

    • I know a bit of what you are going through. Last Christmas Dad sat in his wheelchair in my living room (we went and got him at the care facility). When I look at pictures you can see he looks confused. The Christmas before though he sat on my catch and smiled and enjoyed his grandchildren opening gifts (though he was ready to go home the immediate second breakfast was over!). This Christmas Dad is not with us (cancer not alzheimer’s took him) and it has been very tough. I understand about you grieving over the year though – treasure every moment with your Mom, lucid or not. I will remember you in my prayers.

    • Debbie I too so understand your grief. I thought it was guilt I was feeling after having to put my mother in a nursing home but through the help of a friend I now it is grief. It never leaves me and is so much worst when I go see her and have to walk out and leave her. we are spending Christmas Eve with her, hoping to take her out to eat but sometimes doing that kind of thing only confuses her more. I KNOW she is in the best place for the kind of care she needs and I must take my grief to the only one who really understands fully. My mother had such a hard life I was praying that in her later years I could take care of her…..I pray for the ones who do care for her, for patience, a tender touch, a kind word, patience, much patience. It helps me to pray for them and I have seen first hand how it helps them too. My friend keeps telling me, Betty it is what it is…yes it is…and with God’s help we will all let it be used to transform us into His image. Merry Christmas

  39. Praying a sweet healing comfort over your family this different Christmas, Emily. Thank you for stepping out to share your heart in this way in this season. Grieving alongside you, for different reasons, but still alongside, as all the others here have shared too. Hugs, sister!

  40. Beautiful post. You’re a beautiful writer… “Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal.”

    My grief this Christmas is not the loss of a loved one taken from this earth, but the loss of a community I once held dear. I am holding – gripping – the truth that my Redeemer remains the same even when circumstances become messy, and ruined, and grief-ridden.

    Blessings to you this Christmas. May Immanuel’s presence be so very real to you despite the changes. Thank you for this post.

  41. It’s the first Christmas without my brother-in-law. He was larger than life and loved by everyone who met him. The hole where he fit in our family is huge and gaping; the grief, still hard to believe at times. It’s also my first Christmas as a cancer patient. Yes, this year, Christmas feels upside down and a little sideways. But we are still clinging to the belief that God IS with us, especially in the hard times.

  42. Part of this beauty is how we can all share together in our hurting, not pretending that suffering doesn’t exist for Christ-followers.

    In our family this year, my husband’s dad lost both of his parents, my sister-in-law lost her mother, and we all lost my other sweet sister-in-law (my brother’s wife) to breast cancer at age 26.

    We will be hurting AND we will be thanking God making all things beautiful.

  43. I am amazed to read all of these comments. wow. I will have a post on a similar topic up Thursday on my blog. Not always easy to be joyous this time of year but I am comforted by knowing Emmanuel – God is With Us

  44. Emmanuel – God is With Us is the theme that keeps resonating in my heart the past four days. For a couple of weeks though I have been walking in the tunnel Emily so perfectly described. I don’t remember feeling this way the Christmas after my Mom died, but now that both Mom and Dad are gone I feel so sad and haven’t wanted to do anything Christmasy. This morning I studied Psalm 131 – v. 2 & 3 “But I am calm and quiet, like a baby with its mother. I am at peace, like a baby with its mother. People of Israel, put your hope in the Lord now and forever.” I’m so thankful that even when I am hurting I can have peace because of the miracle of Christmas.

  45. Emily,

    I still remember the first Christmas with my grandaddy, he was so much fun at Christmas. He loved opening the presents as much as I did (I was the only grandchild) or my son. He was a carpenter and always wanted to make me a curio cabinet but he got sick and could no longer build. That first Christmas my husband and grandmother bought me one the design was very close to what he wanted to build. My husband wrote a letter as if it were from my grandaddy and framed it. The letter sits in the curio even today and when I am missing him I read it.

    That first Christmas was both sad and wonderful all at the same time. We laughed about times past and cried that he was not here.

  46. only six months since my lovely sister Ann died suddenly, how i miss her all the time and will miss her this 1st christmas. thankyou Lord for your love that surrounds us in grief.

  47. This year I will be watching, my children will be watching, my grandchildren, great grandchildren. We will all be watching dear husband, dad, papaw. How fast he has gone down. First limping, then the cane and now the walker. He is only 77 God. He has lots of good years left and I can’t go on without him. But I know I have no control over this. COPD, always the threat of pneumonia, cancer of the lungs.
    I want it all to be the best Christmas we have ever had, but what is the best Christmas? Having everyone there? Impossible w/a growing family and in-laws also just as interested in the new little ones. No, the difference is in the closeness that we have this year. We have our precious prayer times. We look tor the Jesus things in our life and find them more and more. Life has become more and more tender because of his illness. Will this be the last one? God knows and he loves him more than we do. He will take him at the right time. I trust.

  48. My husband of 61 years died November 26 2011. so unexpectedly and yet not I guess. We delt with hios cancer for 6 years, the last two years he was in a home and then alzhiemers set in. that nite he was gone in 20 min. I find myself checking the time to make the trip to the home,for his lunch or dinner.I prayed that God would let me stay to care for his needs and that when his time came that God would take him quickly. both were answered. Now I find my self kind of misplaced.

    • Elizabeth, I am so very sorry for your loss. I pray God blesses you this holiday season.

      What a testimony that you and your husband were married for 61 years that is great.

  49. This year I was going to have two more stockings to fill. Two more for a total of three. Three stockings for my three girls. However, on June 30, 2011, I delivered my identical twin girls, Emmerson and Vivienne and never got the chance to take them home with us. This Christmas, I am just trying to hold it together for my daughter. I’m just trying to make it through. It is hard! Its difficult to celebrate when you are mourning the loss of your children.

  50. Christmas is different this year because my son and daughter-in-law decided to go their separate ways. We are all trying to make things as normal as possible for my grandkids. Although we will all be together for Christmas, including my daughter-in-law, it is still not the same.

  51. Praying for you and your family as you journey to find your new normal. I often find myself wondering what an amazing Christmas or Easter my Mom is having worshiping at the throne and somehow in the midst of that there is almost an excitement for her that seems to overshadow the sadness. The beauty of Emmanuel is that He chose the ultimate interruption not to bring us peace or comfort or hope or salvation, but that He IS our peace, our comfort, our hope, our salvation – with us, in us, ever present. Thank you for the reminder.

  52. My husband of 29yrs pssed away in May, 7mths ago. He was 53. Our children, all in their 20s, will be with me on Christmas Day, but it won’t be the same, & I really don’t feel like doing things the way we used to. Life has changed. I have to make a new life, & I know “life must go on”. Some days I just don’t have the energy to even smile. But I will get through this time, for the “kids”. I know they miss their Dad, too…. :o)

  53. Our youngest son passed away a little over a year ago. Tonight our daughter and her fiancee’ came home for Christmas. I kept wishing Caleb could come back home, too.

    • Trish, I’m so very sorry for your loss. May His grace be sufficient in ways that transcend human comprehension. I wish Caleb could come back to your house, too.

      • Thanks, Christan! His grace is more than sufficient and had kept me going this past year. But there are still times of great sadness……

  54. I am sitting here crying as I read over these. I wish I could give every single precious person a hug. It has been a while since I have had to walk through a first Christmas without someone, but I still remember keenly how hard it was. My father passed away very unexpectedly when I was 18. We were not able to bear doing anything the same that first year…even went and spent the night with friends so we would not have to wake up in our house Christmas morning without him.

    Praying for all of you tonight. Thanking the Lord that He sees you, He loves you, and He will not forsake you. Beautiful post, Emily. One that was so obviously needed. And I love how you ended it…He is with us. He is in us. He is here.

  55. This year will be my first year to celebrate without my daddy.Exactly 10 days ago my daddy passed away.He had been sick for a long time,maybe 10 years. He had dementia and progressed into worse health from there.He turned 82 this year and I turned 44 and I was his baby girl. I will miss him lots, but I hang onto my memories and life goes on.

  56. Thank you so much for this post. I am bawling so hard I can’t be responsible for these typo’s. This will be the first year without my daddy. He passed away two-months ago and it is hard. While being the strong one, I want to crater. I want him there. His laughter, his smile, his presence. I’m fretting the day. I don’t want it to be an emotional day for my children and so I smile. I hold in my true sentiments. I ponder and wonder . . . can I do this thing called Christmas without my dad? Blessings from another in the season of grief!

  57. We moved to Spain just a few short months ago. This will be our first Christmas in the ten years we have been married that we will be alone. No family surrounding us, no Popa to take a million pictures, no Ma to throw the wrapping paper at. I am broken-hearted about being so far away. I know we will make new traditions, but this year it is so hard.

  58. “every year Emmanuel means something different” ~ that sentence grabbed me. thank you for sharing this with us. our family isn’t grieving the loss of a loved one this year but it is a different kind of Christmas for us this year. remembering that He is Emmanuel brought things back into perspective.

  59. Ah Emily…I knew you suffered a loss earlier this year, thank you for letting us in.

    It will be 10 years in May since we lost our mother. I still can’t believe it will be that long as I type this. How has that much life happened without her here?

    We all remember well that first Christmas without her…I had just gotten engaged! which brought us all much joy and it reminds of all that was & is bittersweet about her passing and all that we’ve lost and all that we’ve gained.

    I wrote about this this week on my blog as a part of a series on home {my word for 2011}…and then this will very likely be our last Christmas with our families for several years as we are moving overseas. So, there’s lots going on and yes, especially Christmas seems to stir it all up.

    Here’s the post : http://www.findtheflametofan.blogspot.com/2011/12/thoughts-on-home-how-pieces-become.html {Thoughts on Home :: How the Pieces Become Whole}

    Blessings and prayers and hugs to all who are grieving…

  60. So much pain here – but so much courage, too. It gives me courage to read these posts, and it makes me feel less alone.

    Like many here, I miss my parents immensely – Christmas brings up memories of my father’s passing, because he died shortly after Christmas – my mother has been gone 6 years now, but I still miss her every single day.

    I am a person who leans very heavily towards depression, and has to battle it constantly – the most difficult thing to deal with is my adult son’s alcoholism, which has basically torn-up his life. It comforts me that he still has faith in God, but it breaks my heart that he is held hostage to alcohol. I pray for him constantly.

    Thank you, Emily, for the opportunity all of us have to write about our sadness and to feel solidarity with others who are going through sad times.

    • I understand. We all miss our loved ones who have gone or who aren’t close by.
      However, to feel the loss of a child…whether by death or by life choices that take them away from us…is the hardest heartbreak to walk through. May you find comfort and peace.

  61. This will be the first christmas without my mother-in-law I know it’s going to be hard. On me my son and my Fiancee especially his sister and dad. We probably wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t for my son. Whose 3. She was like a mother to me because my mom live out of state. We live with them so that makes it extra hard. We bought a tree and let Aidyn pick ornaments nothing personal on the tree.. We baked cookies but not from scratch like she used to do. I could not do that… I am steering Christmas but trying to stay happy for my son is this normal.

  62. My dad died from complications of a brain tumor at noon on Christmas eve 2005. He had never been in the hospital a day in his life until 10 weeks prior when he was diagnosed after going to the ER. His greatest wish was to be out of the hospital and at home for Christmas. Hospice had everything set up at my parents’ home and on Christmas eve morning he took a turn for the worse and we were advised that the ride home would be too stressful. My dad got saved about a month before he died. He did, indeed, get to be home for Christmas. 🙂 I found myself rejoicing as I knew it a miracle for this man, who had been anti anything spiritual for his entire life, to be saved. My churched but apparently unsaved mom told me that he “did this for me.” While my mom and extended family mourn my dad’s passing, I continue to rejoice. Do I miss his presence? Absolutely. However, the fact that he is in heaven with Christ trumps my feelings of sorrow.

    My husband has been overseas for 23 months trying to get work and provide financial security for me and our three children. We have not seen him since he left. This has been a VERY trying season in many ways. We are living with my mom and I am grateful for that but it is a challenging place for me to be spiritually and relationally. My husband hopes to be home on Saturday, Christmas eve. He has a visa problem that needs to be addressed and he has to do that tomorrow and then his ticket may be issued. My children ( 13, 11, and 8) are DESPERATE to see their dad and to have him home for Christmas. I am trying to prepare myself, that , again, he may not make it. I don’t want to have to be the bearer of this news to my children. Please pray with me that God’s grace would abound and that we could be reunited and enter my mom’s home with the Spirit of God bringing PEACE that comes through our Savior, Jesus, Emmanuel.

  63. Oh Emily, my heart breaks reading this because I know all too well the place you are in. Last year was the first Christmas without my mother-in-law, my kids’ beloved Haukebo. I’m not going to lie – it was hard. And this year, we have brand-new hard news – a terminal cancer diagnosis for my father-in-law, just a week before Christmas and barely more than a year after we lost his wife. I’ve been angry. And very, very sad.

    I pray that you will feel God’s love shining through the dark spots this season, my friend. You will feel Him. You will see and hear Him. He is there, with you, leading you through the tunnel into the light at the other hand. I know, because He’s with us, too.

    Grace and peace to you, Emily.

  64. How I relate to your words, Emily! This will be my 5th Christmas without Grandma and my 1st Christmas without my other Grandma, who died 2 months ago. I don’t know how to be grandmotherless but I’m plodding forward one day at a time, one memory at a time. God is with me, this I cling to.

  65. Thanks for acknowledging that Christmases shift, change, and can be difficult sometimes. I have never seen so many homegoings to heaven at this time of the year as I have this season. None of them directly change my family, but I know the families that they have changed. There have also been a few births, and I feel like I’m seeing lives come down from heaven, and lives go back. It’s been quite interesting to observe.

  66. It’s been well over forty years since my papa passed away on Christmas eve after losing my Grandma 2 years earlier the day after christmas and I still ache for their loving arms. Christmas always brings these memories flooding and I try to incorporate the memories into our gift giving festivities as I re-live my life with my grandparents to my own grandchildren. They really enjoy the stories and I recieve the joy of Christmas again

  67. Emily,
    I am grateful for your words. I have wondered what this season of tears have been for. I thought to myself ” I feel raw, exposed.” Then your words: “Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal.” My tears are here to heal my heart. I have spent the past 8 months beside my 5 year old, diagnosed with leukemia in April, as she has endured round after round of chemotherapy. The worst is behind her. Alleluia! With 2 more years to go until her therapy plan is complete we rejoice as she enters a phase less toxic and less frequent. Ragggedy Annie’s words: “Those of us who are dealing with grief and the empty space left behind…are the true children of the advent…hanging on to Hope for our very lives.” This is where I am…hanging on, waiting with the hope for a cure. Christmas couldn’t come at a more appropriate time for us this year.
    Thank you and God Bless!

    • “My tears are here to heal my heart.” Amen and Amen. Oh Meredith, what you have been through. My dilemma is much smaller, but just two days ago, my son was handed down a severe disciplinary action at school for breaking the rules (he’s a high school senior and should know better) and I was so spittin’ angry at him and just walked around like that until…yesterday morning when I sat down with God. I told God all about how I was feeling, and the tears for my child flowed. With them, I was able to let go of the bitterness, the anger, the “why”, and the despair of his horrible timing to pull a prank right before Christmas vacation when now we would all be painfully aware of the discipline we’d have to invoke. Since talking to God about it and shedding those tears, I can honestly say I could feel the release of tension in my heart and in my mind. Tears have a powerful cleansing ability, just the way God designed them to be. There really IS such a thing as having a good cry.

  68. “Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal.”

    Thank you for your courage to share, Emily. Your words gives me freedom to be real and authentic about how hard things are this year. The holidays have been rough the past couple of years due to family divisions, but this year has been the craziest yet. About a month ago, the Lord started revealing deep layers of woundedness in my heart that I had completely blocked out of my memory. I’ve been trying to walk with Him through the confusion and darkness, letting Him minister to my pain.

    I just found out yesterday that one of my close friends from the past was killed in a car crash.

    I can only run into the arms of my Daddy God and trust that He will bring restoration to my family and that the gospel will run swiftly and be glorified through the death of my dear friend.

    My prayers are with you and your family this Christmas season. May we allow Him to turn our mourning into joy and enlarge our testimonies through these tough experiences.

    blessings, sister!

  69. Wow. I can tell by the list of comments this is a needed post. For many this time of year is all happiness and excitement and for those of us who are not “feeling” all that happiness it can be a challenge. My father passed away December 28, 2011 and my mom passed away on December 19, 1987, so the Christmas season has it challenges for me. How do you grief but yet enjoy the Christmas season? How do you adjust to the “new norm” or even find the new norm?

    All I can say is that Christ is my strength. The fact that God sent his only son to this world as a defensless, helpless infant in order to make a way for all human kind to have access to Him and have the availability to have an intimate relationship with Him is truly mind boggling. The fact that this plan required His only son’s death in order for us to have an opportunity at everlasting life is amazing!! What a plan our heavenly Father had by sending His son on Christamas day. When He returns it will be as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – not as a helpless infant. Oh, What a day that will be but until then – Happy Birthday Jesus – Merry Christmas to all.

  70. This will be our second Christmas without my mom. She passed away of cancer at the young age of 55.

    Today I opened up her three-ring binder with all of her Christmas baking jewels and secrets, written in her own writig with notes to go along so they’re just perfect. It was like she came into the kitchen the minute I opened it.

    This was my “Emmanuel” moment. God gives me these small surges of comfort to remind me that he hasn’t forgotten and he’s still with me.

    Thank you, Emily, for this today. It was perfect timing and beautifully written. 🙂


  71. What a blessed post! It has been almost ten years since my father “graduated”….
    It gets a tiny bit easier every year, but there is always something that still brings me to tears during the holiday season. I, too, am glad to be able to go to church this year and surround myself with the hustle and bustle of the day. God has been showing me that so many of His people are suffering this year. Many in our body have illness, financial difficulties, loneliness… I just want to minister to them in some way. Thank you for reminding us that we have received the greatest gift and that’s what must be our focus!

  72. this post definitely struck a cord with me. after a nine year battle with alzheimers, i lost my dad(age 62) just 8 short weeks ago. i had been losing him little by little over the past 9 years, with him no longer knowing us for the last year. for the past year, holding my dad’s hand has been my lifeline to him, and now i don’t even have that. i knew his death would be hard, but i had no idea it would affect every aspect of my life. i now know what it means to miss someone so much it hurts. i take joy in knowing my dad is with Jesus and he is whole again, but the ache over him being gone is larger than life.

  73. My first Christmas without my mom. I have spent 54 Christmases with her. It was always mom and I. She was a single parent since I was 6 years old. I am blessed with my husband and children but Mom will be and is missed.

  74. Thanks for even talking about this. I lost my beautiful 7 year old niece suddenly in June this year and finding the thought of Christmas with one of our family missing difficult. It will be bitter sweet with the sadness of missing her and yet the joy of her 2 younger sisters. I love the way you express it Emily: ” Emmanuel means something different. Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal. But God coming down to this gritty, dusty, land of the dying makes every difference in our hope for living. He is with us. He is in us. He is here.”

  75. July 9, 2010 God chose to take my oldest son (age 39) home. He left behind a wife and six kids. This was sudden and many question…First Christmas we all were in a fog and this year it has hit home. He is not coming back and it has been so hard. I know that my God is in control and every thing is in his plan. On the days that I feel I can no longer go on, I hear God saying four words “Do you trust me”? Yes Lord; I say as I climb into his lap to rest. I am so thankful that I have a heavenly father that cares and counts the tears that fall. I know that I should be jumping for joy that my son is no longer having to put up with the trials of this world but I miss him so much. Each day that passes I am learning to trust God more….

  76. Thank you for this post…I have been trying to stay busy to avoid any feelings, but being a teacher and having time off, they have caught up with me. I have bawled buckets over your post and then the comments. My Mom passed away in ’03 and Christmas since then has been very different. Just 11 weeks ago my Dad passed away, and just 3 weeks ago, my mom’s mom passed away. My family is swimming in grief, yet trying to cling to Him to see us through. We know He is still good, we are just struggling with our missing. Thanks again and I am praying for all that are walking through this season a little differently this year. John 14:1-4

  77. My dad went home December 5, 2011 after a car crash a mile from their home. Christmas has never been the same without him. He was the one who made sure all the torn wrappings and ribbons didn’t get in the way of all the fun.
    I read this in a book someone gave me right after his passing and it gives me comfort so hoping it will do the same for someone else. “If those we love are with the Lord and He has promised to always be with us, then they can’t be far away.” Bless you all this Christmas time.

  78. This is our first Christmas since moving from Illinois, where I lived all my life and all my children’s lives, to South Carolina. Due to a variety of circumstances, we are staying put for Christmas. And while we are comforted by the beach, some random get togethers, and each other, it’s hard to imagine it all passing by without time spent with my parents, grandma, stepson, niece and nephew, friends… God is teaching me much in this quiet Christmas.

  79. This is my second year without my other half. I have trouble believing that he won’t be here to laugh and talk and enjoy everyone. But I will smile as I remember him and look for the joy in the season. It is the 25th year without my mother and I miss her now as much as my first Christmas without her. She always made the season special, even when we had little or nothing. I believe these two people are with me all year, watching and protecting me. I am in no hurry, but I look forward to seeing them again in heaven one day.

  80. For me, Christmas was different this year. My loved ones haven’t passed, which is part of the reason healing is lingering…or so it seems. See, due to my brother and his family partaking in witch-craft and wanting nothing to do with those who follow Christ or of the church, we don’t get to see them anymore. We want more than anything for them to know that we still love him, his wife, and their 2 kids, regardless. They only live 15 miles from us, but we haven’t seen them since July 7th. It’s heartbreaking. I know that He makes all things work together for our good. I know their is hope in Him. Sometimes, especially this first Christmas without them, it’s hard to see.

  81. I’m so glad you wrote this, Emily. This Christmas was full of tension, imperfection and loss for me and my family. I wrote about it on my blog and felt a bit like a freak for going against the grain of all the glitter and sparkle of traditional Christmas posts. Fortunately, just like you have experienced, there were a few who “got me.”

    But here’s what I know is true: the pain, imperfection and loss is what creates the longing for Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

  82. Hi,

    I normally don’t post on things like this, but this year the holidays have been particularly rough for me. I’m searching for answers and ways to handle things that are healthy. I’m trying to look to God and understand that there is a farther plan, but it’s so hard. As you said, the holidays can make tunnels so much darker and harder to look for the light.

    In September, the rock of our family passed away from cancer. He was my grandfather, and he was someone that literally had saved my life. He was someone we talked to when we were searching for answers. He was taken so suddenly that it shocked us all. These are our first holidays without him, and Christmas was his favorite holiday of the year because it symbolized family togetherness and love.

    On top of that, on Christmas day my husband wanted a separation leading to divorce – sending me home from England where he is stationed only three days after. I got home two days ago and our anniversary is tomorrow. This was our first Christmas and New Years together because he was deployed last year.

    To add another layer to the cake, he won’t talk to me but contacted his ex-girlfriend to talk to – one in which he cheated on me with before we were married. He’s changed the passwords to just about everything except our bank account, so I have been completely shut out of our life together. I have no job, phone, car, nothing.

    So, in the midst of a very horrible holiday season the worst has come. I feel like I have hit rock bottom and I’m having trouble finding the light – something that I have not struggled with much before. I’ve always been a positive person, but now I don’t feel the light. Does time bring back the light? How do you push through? I’m lost.

    Like I said, I normally am not one to blog or put things online. But, I feel like this time I am beyond my normal self. I’m looking for answers in places that I normally do not find. This blog has been so uplighting for me that I wanted to surround myself with people who, despite it all, have found the light and positive parts of life. Thanks for listening.

  83. […] From the moment of Jesus’ conception, God made His name Emmanuel – God with us – very real. Every year Emmanuel means something different. Life peels back more layers and we’re left standing raw until they heal. But God coming down to this gritty, dusty, land of the dying makes every difference in our hope for living. He is with us. He is in us. He is here. ~Emily P. Freeman […]