Mourning and loss at Christmas

Posted Dec. 17, 2010, at 7:42 p.m.

A friend of mine died recently.

Though his funeral was held in a beautiful Bangor church just two weeks before Christmas, the minister was under strict orders that there was to be no Christmas music during the service.

My friend hated Christmas.

Call him a grouch if you will. He could be on occasion, actually. Call him Scrooge if you’d like, but it might not be appropriate.

It wasn’t the spiritual part of Christmas that he hated, nor was it the gross commercialism of the holiday.

It had more to do with the fact that 32 years ago — Dec. 22, 1978 — while others were finishing their shopping, attending Christmas pageants and baking cookies, he and his wife were burying their 6-year-old son.

Those who knew him and loved him allowed him to hate Christmas for the rest of his life, and there was no Christmas music played during his funeral service.

He lived a good life.

He loved and remarried. He hunted and fished and worked hard and played jokes on his friends and played cards and made an absolute fool of himself over his dogs.

Most of us will go through our lives without ever burying a small child, let alone at Christmas, and most of us will go through our lives without hating Christmas.

That being said, the rooms at Eastern Maine Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor are still full.

People are sick. And most of those people have people who love them.

Sickness and death are painful at any time. But sickness and death and the feelings they evoke in families are highlighted when the theme is “Joy to the World.”

So here are a few tips from my friend Robin Sprague of Beacon Hospice:

It’s OK that things are not normal.

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.

It’s OK to order out.

Change it up — if you normally spend Christmas morning at Mom’s, perhaps hold it elsewhere.

Be tenderhearted to other family members who may feel differently from you.

Say the deceased person’s name.

Acknowledge the complicated nature of the death.

Breathe deep, have tolerance and forbearance.

It’s OK to buy store-bought cookies.

Most important is to reach out, reach out, reach out!

E-mail Renee at reneeordway@gmail.com and listen to her and co-host Dan Frazell from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on the radio at 103.1 The Pulse and 620 AM.

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