The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The Servants of Mary invite you to take time this Lent to walk with Mary as she experienced sorrow in her life. These are known as the Seven Sorrows or Seven Dolours. Mary like each of us knew suffering.

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The Pieta is a key icon for the Servants of Mary

The Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus Carrying His Cross

Luke 23: 26-27
“As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.”

When I reflect over my life, this fourth sorrow is the one I can identify with most strongly and in a personal way. One of the key words in this sorrow is the word “meet”. Mary meets Jesus carrying his cross. The Cross is a symbol for suffering. Suffering is not something we choose most times, it chooses us or someone we love. The first time I experienced meeting someone who was suffering happened when I was Coordinator for our Motherhouse.

I was in my late thirties. Up to that point, I had been working with and teaching first graders. So, coming to the motherhouse and being responsible for the care and welfare of sisters who were much older than me was a challenge. We had just started setting up a health care unit for the sisters who needed extra care and nursing care. I knew nothing about the medical field. I was grateful for the nursing staff we had who taught me a great deal over those four years.

What I remember the most which changed my life in ways I didn’t understand at the time, was that most of the women I was carrying for just wanted me to walk with them as they lived and faced whatever illness or suffering that they were experiencing. All they really wanted form me was love and compassion as they lived and died.

The last year and a half of being the Coordinator was an extremely difficult and draining journey of walking with twelve different sisters who were living with serious illnesses and preparing for their deaths. Each one of those women graced me with their willingness to trust me and allow me to companion with them to the end of their lives.

Mary was a faithful companion for me during those four years. Many a time I would go to her in my prayer and ask for the grace and the wisdom to know what I needed to do or when to get out of God’s way.

Mary in her own life experienced a great deal of suffering. She walked with her son from the stable to the cross. Mary knows what it means to suffer. Even in my own life when I am faced with personal suffering or that of one of my family members, Mary is always at my side. I have had many family members deal with life threatening illness and some have died from these illnesses. One of those was my sister-in-law Linda, who at the age of 34 was diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage four. This illness changed her life and the life of my brother and their four young children forever.

When she was first diagnosed, she believed in God, a kind of distant God who was there when you needed him. By the end of her life, God was front and center. There was no fear or anxiety. She knew to whom and where she was going and so did my brother.

None of us know with whom or when suffering will be part of our journey, but it will come and I pray that you will have someone in your life, like Mary, to turn to who will be at your side every step of the way.

I don’t have the answer to the question why is there so much suffering in our world, but these words from Fr. Richard Rohr help me to accept suffering is a part of our lives as much as joy.

“Until we love and until we suffer, we all try to figure out life and death with our minds. Love, I believe, is the only way to initially and safely open the door of awareness and aliveness, and then suffering for that love keeps the door open and available for ever greater growth. We dare not refuse love or suffering or we close the door to life itself.”

By Sr. Kerry Larkin, OSM

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The Third Sorrow: The Loss of the child Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:43-49: When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, and all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw, him they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me, did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

This third sorrow is a challenging one to understand, because Jesus himself is the one who has caused his parents this anxiety and suffering. We might be thinking to ourselves, why didn’t Mary and Joseph make sure Jesus was them before they left the city to return home?
For them to travel with a caravan, the women would be in one group, the men in another group and the children would be with other children their own ages.Once they realized Jesus was missing, they searched for him for three days in the city of Jerusalem.

I think all of us can identify with the words in this passage spoken by Jesus’s mother, “Son, why have you done this to us.? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Even after Mary lets Jesus know how fearful they felt he doesn’t seem to comprehend what they have been going through. He simply asked them “Why are you looking for me, did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Not only would this be painful for them to hear, but cause both Joseph and Mary more anxiety along with a great deal of confusion.

When we look back at this event in the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it would be easy for us to say they should have understood who Jesus was, after all didn’t the Angel Gabriel tell them both he was the Son of God?

When Mary felt deep sorrow her way of coping was to sit quietly and ponder the words that she held close to her heart. I would think the experience of not knowing where your child is would be the most difficult suffering a parent could go through. How many times have we had Amber Alerts taking place in different towns and cities in our own country because a child is missing or has been taken, or a child has run away on their own.

Jesus was a twelve-year-old boy who felt drawn by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Temple. He was caught up in the conversation he was having with the High Priest. In a sense, he had lost all track of time. You can hear that in the way he answered his mother’s question. He wasn’t showing her disrespect. He didn’t understand the impact his choice had made. However, once he did realize what his parents had been going through, he went back home with them. It wasn’t time for him to begin his ministry.

So, what can we learn from this third sorrow? Who are the Mary and Joseph’s in our world today who have lost a child for one reason or another?

How are they able to keep on living not knowing where their child is or what has happened to them?

One of greatest challenges our world faces today is that of “Human Trafficking.” The Human Trafficking of young children being sold as part of a sex trade. May we as people of faith stand with Mary and Joseph in pondering this third sorrow that families face today.
Are you being asked to walk with parents, friends and family members who are living with the sorrow of not know whether their child is alive and safe?

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

The Servants of Mary invite you to take time this Lent to walk with Mary as she experienced sorrow in her life. These are known as the Seven Sorrows or Seven Dolours. Mary like each of us knew suffering.

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The Pieta is a key icon for the Servants of Mary

The Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt

Matthew: 2; 13-15

When the Magi had departed, behold, the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod.

Fear, and sorrow entered Mary and Joseph’s life soon after Jesus is born. They find out from three strangers that the life of their child is threaten by a powerful king. Joseph, having trusted God the first time when God revealed to him in a dream that he was to take Mary as his wife is now faced with the challenge of how to protect both his wife and child.
Once again, in a dream, Joseph is told by the angel to leave all that is familiar to them. They are to go to Egypt to live until it is safe for his family to return home. The distance that Joseph and Mary would have traveled from Bethlehem to Egypt was around eighty miles.

This would not have been an easy journey through desert terrain. I am sure at different times during their journey they would have tried to join a caravan for safety. They are being asked in faith to turn their life and family over to the care of their God in a strange place without the support of their family.

Letting go of control is never easy, especially when we are asked to place our children, a family member or a loved one into the care of strangers when they are ill. I remember when my sister-in-law, who at the age of thirty-four, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Not long after she was diagnosed it was determined by her doctors that she needed to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico for special treatment. Even today it is painful to remember. There are no words to express the grief and sorrow that her mother and father, their five children and my family went through as we went through such a painful, scary time. For them to have to leave behind their children, her mom and dad and my mom took a tremendous amount of courage and faith.

Loss and grief can come into our lives in many ways, especially when we are faced with letting go of all we are familiar with and where we feel safe. There are many people in our world today who have been forced out of their homes and countries to find safety. Their experiences are extremely difficult as they are faced with uncertainty, their very lives being threaten. Our world can be a hostile world at times. Our world is filled with refugees. In truth, we all are refugees. We are a pilgrim people walking this journey of life together.
I often think of this quote when I am faced with uncertainty in my life.

“We often say we are human beings on a spiritual journey. When in truth we are Spiritual Beings on a Human Journey.”

How can we reach out and help those, who like Mary and Joseph, are seeking safety, security and home for their family? What grace do we need to ask God for so we can open ourselves up to and be attentive in the ways God reveals himself to us, whether that be through our dreams, through each other or through strangers who come bearing gifts?
Gifts that may also bring a sense of loss, sorrow or sadness into our lives.

By Sr. Kerry Larkin, OSM

The Seven Sorrows

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The Pieta is a key icon for the Servants Mary. 

The Servants of Mary invite you to take time this Lent to walk with Mary as she experienced sorrow in her life. These are known as the Seven Sorrows or Seven Dolours. Mary like each of us knew suffering.

 

The First Sorrow: The Prophesy of Simeon

Luke 2:22-38

When the days were completed for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present to the Lord…Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.”

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regards to him, Simeon took Jesus into his arms and blessed God. “Behold this Child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed…and a sword will pierce your own soul too.

There was also a prophetess, Ann, of the tribe of Ashe. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband and then was a widow until she was eight-four. Anna never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer, coming forward at the very time she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

Joy and Sorrow often happen together. This first Dolour takes place within the Temple in Jerusalem. This Temple is the holiest of all temples for all Jews. Mary and Joseph have come here to dedicate their first-born son to God.

As Mary and Joseph enter the outer Temple they are met by an elderly man. A stranger to them, and yet there is a sense of the “Holy” very much alive within the man himself. As he approaches this couple and their newborn son, he knows beyond any doubt that the promised made to him is being fulfilled right before his eyes.

I can’t imagine what Mary and Joseph were experiencing as they listen to the words and the prayer Simeon offered to God as he held their son in his arms. I am sure Joseph’s first reaction was to protect both Jesus and Mary.

Being in this temple may have offered them a sense of the sacred, which touched them both as they listen and were amazed at the words spoken to them by this holy man.
At first, they receive a sense of peace and consolation from the words Simeon spoke, however a sense of fear and confusion must have filled their hearts as he directed his last words to Mary. “Behold this Child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed…and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” At that moment, their lives where changed forever. All their hopes, dreams, joys and sense of security was changed once Simeon spoke those words to them.

How often in our own lives have we experienced times of great joy only to be followed by deep sorrow? How quickly grief can enter our lives once the words are spoken by a doctor, a friend, a police officer…our lives are changed forever. How does one cope with such devastating news brought on by a serious illness, accident or shooting?

These experiences offer us the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God or we can choose to move away from God out of our own sense of fear or confusion. However, God doesn’t leave us alone in our fear and confusion.

There was someone else present in the temple that day a woman by the name of Anna. She comes forward to offer this young couple words that bring them comfort, support and compassion.
o Who has been the Simeon in your life who has offered news of both joy and sorrow?
o Who has been the Anna in your life who has shared in your joys, offering love and support and compassion?
o When you are walking through times of grief, are you able to seek God or be in the sacred places of your life to find strength and courage on the journey?
o If we are attentive, God is often present to us through the gift of others who may lead us closer to the Holy.
o We can also find God present in our own Inner Sanctuary. Here, in the silence and solitude of our own hearts we desire to hear and receive the words that God shares with us.

Like Mary and Joseph, we are being invited to ponder times of joy and sorrow in our lives which will change us and the world forever.

By Sr. Kerry Larkin, OSM

Eulogy

Paul

Paul Brustowicz

The grave side service for my dad in 1989 at St. Charles Cemetery went well. We were back in the limousine, my mother, brothers and sister, when my OLDER brother suggested that someone should say a few words about dad at the funeral luncheon. Okay and who would that be? None of us were prepared to deliver a eulogy for dad. Guess who got the job? Right, me.

In less than an hour I had to compose a eulogy. How would I honor dad’s memory? Was I going to be serious or humorous? List his accomplishments? Tell a story about him? I remember bouncing along in the back of the limo making notes on a scrap of paper I found in my pocket. I don’t remember what I said. I do remember it was short and sweet. At mom’s funeral in 2005 I was better prepared knowing full well that my siblings would be expecting me to deliver the eulogy.

When I recently came across some helpful hints on writing and presenting a eulogy, I thought I would pass them along here. In the opening paragraphs from The Stuhr Funeral Home in Charleston, SC, the author says you’ll have two or three days to prepare and to get started right away. Someone should have told my brother that. Other suggestions include the following.

When you are tasked with delivering a eulogy, don’t jump right into it. Take some quiet time to reflect about the deceased. What was your relationship? Friend, relative, workmate? Give it some serious thought. Now you can start making notes.

Handwritten or computer generated, write it down. You don’t want to “wing it” in front of friends and family. You don’t have to have complete sentences, just a list of bullet points that will keep you on track and not wandering.

Jokes are NOT recommended but that doesn’t mean humor is not allowed. If the deceased aways had a sense of humor or enjoyed a good joke, you might include an amusing anecdote about him/her. Some of the best eulogies I have heard included humorous anecdotes about the deceased or a humorous story the deceased liked to tell. One is probably enough.

More importantly keep it brief. Shoot for three (3) minutes or four (4), five at the most. Even with notes it is easy to get carried away so stick to the script. Remember this is a stressful time for everyone present. If you are presenting at the end of a service when everyone is ready to leave and you are droning on, the mourners will be fidgety. There may be other speakers, too. It is about the deceased and not YOU.

Practice is important. Rehearse as many times as you can in front of a mirror or trusted family member or friend who can give you feedback. Public speaking is probably one of the greatest fears of most people. Accept that you will be nervous and practice will help defray your nerves.

The biggest challenge of a eulogy is to deliver it without bursting into tears or choking up. It will happen even to professional speakers. Go with the flow. Stop. Take a deep breath. Resume. Don’t be afraid of showing emotion but don’t let it overwhelm you. Again, the best way to be prepared for any emotions is to practice and prepare.

On your way to the podium take five deep breaths. At the podium, open your notes, adjust the microphone and look at the audience. Pick someone to make eye contact with. Deliver the eulogy to that person. Speak clearly. Speak slowly. Use your “outside” voice despite what you hear coming from the sound system which can be deceiving. Emphasize the important words. If emotion starts to overwhelm you or tears start to well in your eyes, just stop, take a breath and continue. Don’t apologize for your emotion. Everyone in front of you is feeling the same way. Sharing your anecdotes and tribute with emotion lets everyone know you are proud to have known the deceased and have been a part of their life.

Cancer Anniversary Prayer

Maria Farrell For Blog

Maria Farrell, Director GriefWork: A National Servite Ministry of Compassion

This morning, I found myself thinking about my family, friends and the families of my friends that have cancer. I pray for them daily and ask for them courage, strength and resolve. I opened my email this morning, and waiting for me was a beautiful prayer by Alden Solovy. The prayer was written for those celebrating an anniversary of being cancer free and allows for reflection on emotions from year to year.

Cancer Anniversary

God of health and healing,
As I approach the [first, second…]
Anniversary of successful cancer treatment,
[My anxiety and (add your other emotions: fear, anger, grief) have returned.]
[I also have a wondrous and surprising sense of optimism and hope.]

I remember clearly the shock and trauma of my diagnosis.
The concern of family and friends.
The fear.
The sleepless nights.
The sadness and tears.
The moments of hope.
The moments when hope seemed lost.
I remember those who have succumbed to this disease.
And I am aware of the fragility of life.

Thank you, God on high,
For the past [year/years] of health,
Years with my cancer in remission.
Thank you for the gifts and blessings in my life,
The diligence of my physicians,
The support of those around me,
And the hope of tomorrow.
May vigor and vitality accompany me always.

Blessed are You,
God of our fathers and mothers,
God of gifts and blessings,
Source of life.

© 2017 Alden Solovy and www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.”

Lightning Strikes

Paul

Paul Brustowicz

I discovered a new saint, Blessed Anthony Grassi.  He lived in the 17th century and was beatified in 1900.  According to Blessed Among Us, Grassi was renowned as a confessor in his native Italian town of Fermo.  What caught my attention was Grassi’s response to his life changing experience of being struck by lightning while on a pilgrimage to Loreto to view the home of the Holy Family.  He was quoted as saying, “I made the discovery that if we believe death to be close at hand we become quite indifferent to this world and know all earthly things to be emptiness.”

 Twenty five years ago, my son’s death was like a near death experience for me. Talk about lightning! On a Friday night in January he was in a car crash and four days later he was an organ donor. For many months afterward I was quite indifferent to the world and to life.  I did not care what happened to me: on the job, on the road, anywhere. I did not care what I said, or how I said it or who was the brunt of my diatribes.  My son was dead, there was no other greater disaster that could befall me. For a while there, I did not care if I lived or died.  At that time I too knew all earthly things to be emptiness. Unlike Blessed Anthony Grassi, I was not a religious person and did not see or accept the hand of God. When I met Frank Bianco in 1993, I found that I wasn’t the only one who had those feelings.

Frank’s son Michael was 18 when he died in a car crash in New York.  In his book Voices of Silence – The Lives of Trappists Today, Frank writes that he was so indifferent to the world that he had considered suicide.  All he needed was a quick flick of the wrist on the steering wheel, traveling 60 mph on the parkway and he could end it all at a bridge abutment.  He did not do that of course.  He channeled his energies into his book and speaking engagements about how Michael’s death had changed his life. How living with Trappist Monks for a few months to do research for his book and dealing with his grief over Michael changed his life. How God led him back to Him through encounters with individual Trappist Monks in various abbeys in the U.S.

At one monastery, Bianco expresses his anger and contempt for God, blaming Him for Michael’s death in a conversation with one of the monks. It was one of those “bad things happening to good people” moments.  The monk listened politely and consoled him, “Frank, you’ll find God waiting for you over in the chapel.  You just have to look.”

It is twenty-five years ago today, January 13, that Brian died. I love him and miss him but this anniversary is different. The grief is not what it was those first days and months and year after his death. His birthday along with the holidays last month were tough but not unmanageable.  At church this morning, I prayed for Brian without a tear in my eye. I am reconciled with God.

“At Least…”

Maria Farrell For SCC calendar

Maria Farrell, Director GriefWork: A National Servite Ministry of Compassion

The new year arrived with the promise of love, hope and peace, and yet there is so much sadness and loss already. My husband and I attended a wedding in May, 2016. This past week, the couple filed for divorce. Heartbreaking on so many levels. It is hard to see the grief and pain on their faces. People don’t know what to say, much like when one experiences a death. And in a sense, a divorce is like a death. It is the death of a relationship.

Divorce isn’t easy. Whether you’ve been married for 8 months or decades, everything will change. The realization of those changes will trigger the grieving process. As when someone dies, friends, family and coworkers want to offer support. But even the most well intentioned loved one can say things that hurt.

“At least there were no kids.”
“At least they didn’t buy a house yet.”
“At least there are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Oh, those two little words! They can cause such pain. That phrase, in essence, diminishes the loss. A couple enters into marriage with certain hopes and dreams: the marriage will last forever, there will be a family to raise, vacations to be taken, having someone by your side for all the ups and downs life will bring your way.

There may be no children, but the dream of having them and raising them together is now gone.

There may be no house, but the dream of creating a home together is no longer a possibility.

There may be plenty of “fish in the sea”, but can that unique relationship ever be replaced?

So how do we support someone going through a divorce? In much the same way we comfort those that have experienced a death.

*Show compassion.
*Acknowledge their feelings.
*Allow them to process their grief in their own way and in their own time. Each journey will be different.
*Reassure them that they are loved.
*Be there to listen.
*Send a card or make a call.

Recognizing the many losses that occur with divorce will enable you to help your loved one grieve this unique relationship without diminishing the loss.

My Meltdown Moments

Maria Farrell For SCC calendar
Maria Farrell, Director GriefWork: A National Servite Ministry of Compassion

Moving is a major grief event. Last year at this time, I was bracing myself for the heartache of telling my children, family, friends and coworkers that my husband and I were moving to Florida. It was what I refer to as “the year of the lasts”:

*The last time the kids would just drop by to say “hi”.

*The end of being a part of the “everyday memories”. Now we are memories associated with “visits”.

*No more being the parents/grandparents/aunt/uncle who were a part of every family event/occasion.

*No more last minute calls from the kids to join them for dinner.

*No more being in Memorial Stadium for Husker home football games. I’ve been going since I was 12 years old.

*No more spaghetti dinner every Sunday at my mom and Dad’s house with our kids, our granddaughter, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews.

*The last time we would be entertaining in our home.

*The last time we would be having dinner with our friends.

I think you get the picture…so much change, so much loss.

This year is “the year of the firsts”. It comes with its own unique losses.

*The first time we weren’t with our family for major holidays.

*The first time we weren’t able to make it to family events.

*The first time we lived in a temporary housing arrangement. It doesn’t feel like home. It’s like being in a constant state of transition. I don’t have a HOME yet!

*The first time I’ve had meltdowns because I miss so much of what I left behind.

Change is hard. I crave the familiar, and at times I want things to be the way they were for the last 52 years. My head knows it will never be the same, but my heart keeps pulling me back. My meltdown moments come and go. I really don’t know what will trigger them. But here’s is what I do know:

*I know it’s okay to be sad.

*I know I’m going to cry.

*I know my husband doesn’t like to see me feel this way, but he’s always right beside me.

*I know that I can always call, text, Facetime, Skype, and Snapchat with my family and friends in between visits.

*I know that we have found and made some really wonderful friends in Florida.

*I know that when these meltdown moments come along, I am not alone. I can call my Florida friends for a supportive shoulder. They are in the same situation. Seems no one is really from Florida. We are each other’s “family away from family”.

*I know the sun will come up, both literally and figuratively. After all, I now live in the Sunshine State!

*I know that I found an awesome group of Husker fans to watch the games with.

*I know it won’t always feel “temporary”.

Most importantly, I know that when I pray, I include all that I am grateful for. That’s what helps me get through my meltdown moments.

Bah Humbug!

Paul

Paul Brustowicz

Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol is one of my favorite stories. I read it every year. I have listened to the audiobook version with Patrick Stewart more times then I can remember. The movie version with Alistair Sims is the best.

I have to believe that Scrooge’s attitude toward Christmas and the ghosts who visit him are the result of unresolved grief.  If you are working on your grief journey and this is your first holiday season, or if last year’s holidays were a disaster because of grief, here are some ideas and thoughts on how to take the humbug out of the season.

Keep in mind that anticipation and fear of the future are usually worse than the actual events. “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”, as spoken by FDR.  With a firm handle on fear and the knowledge that the holidays are coming, whether we want them to or not, you can prepare for the inevitable.

First things first: look at the calendar.  When is Thanksgiving? November 24;  Christmas is a month later on a Sunday, with 2017 starting a week after that.

Take a look back.  What used to happen on Thanksgiving?  Dinner at your house; who did all the preparations; who brought what? Now ask yourself: Is all that necessary?

Plan ahead.  Check with family and friends. Time for a different host? Different chef? Are you expected to “perform”? Consider your own preferences.

No matter what, it will be stressful, so plan an escape route. Where to hide for a grief burst or pity party. A good excuse to leave early if events get to be too much.  Maybe there is a pet you have to feed or walk? Plan ahead.

Perhaps it should be a low key celebration with a time taken by all present to recognize the missing loved one.

I don’t recommend being like one widow who begged off being with family because she had committed to being with another widowed friend on the holiday. Turns out the other widow was at her daughter’s house, and this widow stayed home by herself, turned off the phone, and ate Chinese take out, rather than deal with the holiday head on.

Christmas creates high expectations with demands on time and energy. Grievers need all their energy all year long.  Consider lowering expectations.  If you don’t expect a multi course dinner, over the top Christmas decorations inside and out, and numerous party invites, it won’t hurt as much when they don’t show up.

Maybe this is the year for a change.  Different hosts; different location; Christmas vacation; fewer presents. Time to pare the Christmas card list or not send them at all.

My dad died in October 1989 and mom eliminated Christmas cards that year along with the decorations. She also found it a convenient excuse not to send cards for several years after that.

We had put away all the Christmas decorations the first week of January 1992 and Brian died in week three and my father-in-law died ten days later.  When November rolled around we left home for Thanksgiving and headed south to my brother’s. My mother came along. It was a good move.

Back home for Christmas we made the conscious effort to scale back: one small tree, a few decorations around the house, and a few lights outside. My helper was gone.  In 1993, we were in a new house and we had a few more lights and decorations. When we moved in 2011 there were a dozen boxes and tubs of Christmas stuff.

The times had changed. As the years went by we added lights and more lights. We had two Christmas trees to decorate.  The one constant is Brian’s Christmas rock.  As a little kid he had a school project to paint and decorate a rock for Christmas. It is the size of large potato, painted white with red and green markings. He got a kick out of putting it under the tree or on the mantle.  We put it on display every year. Christmas goes on and so will you.  If any one gives you a hard time, tell them, “Bah, humbug”.