May 22, 2022

Dealing with grief at Christmas

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From Dr. James Dobson

This is a rush transcript and may contain minor errors and/or discrepancies from the audio. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

Dr. Dobson: There is more depression around this time than any other time of the year. How do we explain that?

Dr. Tim Clinton: My Aunt Millie taught me a lesson when I was a younger man, Dr. Dobson. She came up to me one time after I was speaking, preaching at the church. And she said, “Tim, Christmas is not my favorite time of the year.” And she told me about what it was like to lose her son around the holidays. And she said, “Tim, it just opens a wound for me every year. Every year.” 

And I thought about it and I began to think about how many people struggle when these times of year- loss is a reason. I think some people are just lonely, they don’t have anybody.

Dr. Dobson: Can you imagine being in a nursing home and not have any members of your family come to see you on Christmas day? I mean, that’s happening.

Dr. Tim Clinton: I know, I mean it’s grievous. It’s sad. I think of maybe a dad who can’t see his kids because the relationship’s broken. 

Dr. Dobson: Yeah. 

Dr. Tim Clinton: Or a mom or what have you. Or children who just are angry or at odds with others. It’s like, why not, as much is in us, figure out how to work through those things. Talk to somebody. 

I’d love to share a little story about loss and what we’ve done as a family through the loss of my parents. When my mother passed away it was devastating for our large family. She was a matriarch. And that very first Christmas for us was, man, it was a mess. 

We went up to the trailer, to my dad’s place. And you can imagine us all packed in and it’s the first year where mom’s not there. My little sister, Wendy, had put together a song, Light A Christmas Candle. And she said we were going to start a new tradition and that is we’re going to be honest about our emotions and we’re going to gather as a family, light a Christmas candle to commemorate her and to honor her in this moment because she’s with us this Christmas, even though she’s gone. 

And, Dr. Dobson, there were a lot of tears in that moment, but I’ll tell you, it was a healing salve that God brought over us as a family. And when my dad died some 11 years later, we still do this tradition together to honor the love and the goodness and the grace that we had in them and all the years we had together as a family.

Dr. Dobson: Isn’t it interesting that you and I have experienced something similar in regard to what you just said. ‘Cause my dad died on December 4th and he and my mom were planning to come to California to be with us for Christmas, and Christmas, of course, was only about three weeks later. And there was an empty chair there. 

We were all in tears, and especially my mother who just loved my dad. I can’t describe their relationship and for him to be taken out just suddenly, you know, he was just sitting at the table and he fell into my mother’s arms and on to the floor and was gone. I was speaking on that day, it was a Sunday. I was speaking out in California and at break time they came and told me the call had come that my dad was gone. 

That was the saddest Christmas that we ever experienced. I don’t know how people get through those experiences without having the Lord, without the promise of the Christ child, without the promise of eternal life, with the crown of righteousness. We’re going to see him again. You know, he’s there now waiting for us and there have been times when we’ve sat around and talked about all the members of my family and Shirley’s family who know the Lord who have gone on to heaven. We’re going to have quite a reunion on the other side when that occurs. 

Dr. Tim Clinton: You know it’s taken us a few years to get over their loss, but I know this, we now are able, God’s put a bridge over it and we’re now able to tell a lot of stories and laugh together. But we hold on to that blessed hope. It’s what Christmas is all about.

And my dad, right before he passed away, he said to me, “Tim, you know it’s because of him,” meaning because of Christ, he said, “I’ll see you again. I’ll see you again, son.” And we-

Dr. Dobson: Is that when he was dying?

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yes. He says, “Because of him, then I’ll see you again.” 

Dr. Dobson: That touches me.

Dr. Tim Clinton: And we hold on to that hope. That’s what Christmas is all about.

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