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Christmas in the Grieving Land

Christmas seems to amplify our losses. The longing of the one who left reaches unbearable levels. That is why we seek in existing texts and in our own experience a message that brings a greater meaning to all this and that warms the broken hearts

Image: Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Knowing that Christmas is a date when our longing is exacerbated, as well as the sadness of not being able to share this moment with those who are already gone, I show my thoughts here on these feelings.

Some faults are present in my Christmas: 25 years ago, when I lost my father and more recently 5 years ago, when my son Paulo passed away at the age of 28. Maybe this experience of mine can help those who are going through it this year, both those who feel the urge to come back in time to other Christmas that were happier and more complete, than those who face the deep sadness of not knowing how to do it. The will to embrace who is not here and the feeling of numbness and injustice for this impossibility, are together.

In those 5 years without Paulo, I often joke that I cry before (the party) not to cry later. But it’s also like that on his birthday, on Father’s Day and so on. I think it’s healthy to cry and, in a way, almost impossible not to cry. But that is not the question: what is most important – whether we cry or not – is to be able to stop suffering and find meaning in this experience. If Christmas is union, thanksgiving, birth and love, we can imagine that all this is related to the one who was an essential part of our life.

The title of this text refers to “On the Island of Nanja”, a poem by Cecília Meirelles on Christmas in an island naively far from the big centers and the big news.

“And so… Christmas trees do not exist there. Children play with pebbles, sand, ants: they do not know that there are pistols, nuclear weapons, and 200-megaton bombs. If they knew that, they would cry. There no one reads comics either. And everything is much more wonderful, in their naiveness. The dead come and sing with the living, in the great feasts, because God immortalizes, gathers, and makes this world and others, only one”.

What seemed so beautiful in this passage of the poem is the vision (naive, she acknowledges) that Christmas unifies the living and the dead and brings everyone together. So, I imagine my father and Paul very close to me, I feel the license of Christmas to count on this divine providence and to get even closer to my beloved son and father.

We can also talk to and about them, it gives us the feeling of their presence. Without inhibitions, Christmas is love and everyone can hear our feelings. Another way to look is to think of eternity. Every Christmas we’ve spent together is forever.

Another day I found a note that Paulo wrote to me on my birthday. A note that filled me with sadness:

“My beloved mother,

in this first birthday we celebrate, you as a grandmother and me as a father,

I would like to tell you how much I love you!

What a special moment we have, may it last forever.

I love you so much,




The day I saw this card again, I felt so angry at Paulo’s desire not happening: that special moment would not last another year! But today, writing this text, I see everything differently. I feel that moment lasted, yes, forever, because of its value and it’s meaning were so big. We could then imagine that other Christmases that we spent together also became eternal in our happiness, at that moment.Vinicius de Moraes wrote about Christmas from the perspective of how much we missed people who passed away in his poem “Christmas Poem” of 1946. But he concludes that from death we are also born or reborn. Today I know that he is right, this is what makes the experience of grieving for someone who is very close: the need to be reborn in another way, increases.

That’s what we are for:

To remember and be remembered

To cry and to make someone cry

To burry the dead –

That’s why we have long arms, to wave goodbye

Hand to harvest what we were given

Fingers to dig the earth.


That’s how our life is gonna be:

An afternoon to remember

A star to fade in the dark

A path between two graves –

That’s why we have to mourn

Speak low, walk slow, see

To sleep in silence at night.


There’s not much to say:

A song about a cradle

Maybe a rhyme about love

A prayer for the on who’s gone–

But may this time never forget

And for it, let our hearts be

Dense and simple.


Because that’s what we are for:

For hope in Miracle

For participation of poetry

To see the face of death–

We won’t wait anymore…

Today night is young; from death, only

We are born, immensely.

To be reborn through our feelings, this is so beautiful that you can probably help us immensely this Christmas. And here I call an excerpt from Helio Pellegrino’s book “Meditation on Christmas”:

“There is a divine child inside us who wants to be born. May we help every morning to be born every moment. The unstoppable maieutic. The birth, in the agony, of the Way, the Truth and the Life. By the hand of the master Jesus, carpenter, companion, fisherman of fish and men. Lumen.”

Let us join the departed loved ones, let us have the right to feel them close and united to us in the spirit of Christmas love. Let us be reborn next year knowing that we have taken everything that it has brought to us and this includes those we love and the people we had to physically say goodbye. Each one of them will be part of our Christmas, in homesickness, in honor, in spirit, in prayers, in breathing and in the beating of our hearts.

And you up there, much closer to God than we down here, know that you will be part of the blessings, prayers and joys of Christmas, within each one of us. Our infinite and eternal love to you. At Christmas and every single day of our lives.