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Coping with the Holidays and Survivors’ Night Before Christmas

Coping with the Holidays

It’s that time of year again — holidays, shopping, songs, food, parties. Memories, dread, sadness, obligations, forced cheer. Depending on “where you’re at,” this time of year can either feel like an extended celebration or a series of land mines. For many people whose loved one has died, the winter holiday season is the toughest time of year. Wherever you are in your own journey, it’s good to anticipate that there will be some tough moments and to have a plan in place to deal with those.

Here are a few things to remember during the holidays:

1. There are no rules for celebrating the holidays, despite what others might tell you. If you need to sit this year out, create a totally new tradition, or limit how much you do, that is perfectly OK.

2. Take people up on their offers to help, or seek out a friend to share shopping, cooking, wrapping, etc. Or maybe just to get out for a walk or a cup of coffee.

3. Make sure you get the rest, nutrition, exercise, and stress-management you need. Spend some time in prayer, meditation, or quiet reflection. Be gentle and protective with yourself.

4. Don’t believe the propaganda! All those images of happy, intact families smiling around the Christmas tree and couples toasting the New Year with a kiss are just advertising. There are many people whose hearts are heavy this time of year. You are not alone.

5. This is a good time of year to touch base with other people who have suffered losses. Even if it has been many years, you can be sure they are feeling some of the same mixed emotions this season, and they might need a listening ear and company just as much as you do. Help one another!


Twas Survivors’ Night Before Christmas

By Arlene Zang, Mother of Robin Zang-Broxterman

T’was the night before Christmas and all thru the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except me on the couch.
The shopping was finished, the stockings were hung
The Christmas tree lighted, I‘m finally all done!

I have no ambition, no good Christmas cheer,
It took me much longer than usual this year.
I’m tired, exhausted, and thinking of bed
I just can’t get rid of this pain in my head.

I looked at the presents, all under the tree
And wished for one more, just one thing for me.
The touch of your hand, the feel of your kiss
The everyday touches and glances I miss.

Alone with my wishes of what it could be,
I realize it’s different at Christmas for me.
I swallow real hard, and I tried not to cry,
but a deluge of tears was clouding my eye.

When there in the room I heard such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
And high by the mantel, all in a row,
a choir of angels, wings white as the snow.

The light was so bright that I squinted to see,
the legions from heaven now looking at me.
“Do not be frightened, do not despair”
We came down from heaven with loved ones to share!

And there to my left, was a sight to behold,
They all wore old turnouts, white, black and some gold.
Their helmets were painted black, green, red, and yellow,
The white one belonged to some special wise fellow.

They were covered with soot as they stood toe to toe,
But one just stepped forward and started to glow.
And standing before them, I watched through my tears,
Said, “Greetings from Heaven” from all of us this year.

The look in the eye and the nod of the head,
Soon let me know I had nothing to dread.
But the sound of the voice made my heart skip a beat,
And the touch on my hand was in no way discreet.

Meet Father Mychal, my own special friend,
Tries to keep us in line, but his work never ends.
He is hosting the service on this Christmas Eve,
Please light a candle for those that believe.

I want you to meet the rest of my crew,
These are our Chiefs, bored with not much to do.
Our Captain is funny and brave and sincere,
And we all love our “Louie” … talks off your ear.

The crowd in the back is my own “Truckie” crew,
They raise up them ladders, know just what to do.
‘Til my driver and tiller and probie arrive.
And meet our new medics, they love to save lives.

We got our own plane, and the pilots to fly.
While our divers, smoke-jumpers, and roughnecks stand by.
Awaiting assignment and letting us know,
That only the best are now part of this show.

Our engines are cherry, highlighted and bold,
Hose, Axes, and pry bars all coated with gold.
We fly there at the light speed, thru those pearly gates,
And I can assure you that we’re never late.

The Tennessee boy that escaped from the fire
was saved by our crew, when things there went haywire
“A miracle,” Parents said in the press,
but really, just saved by an angel’s caress.

As you can see, our gang is well fed,
We get steak, mashed potatoes, and real homemade bread.
There’s ice cream and cake for those special occasions,
And Monday night football (with beer) on all stations

Birthdays and Holidays we celebrate here
When you light your candles we know you are near
With whispers and prayers and words of deep love
That are brought up to heaven on the wings of a dove

Card games on Fridays, both poker and gin,
Fishing with time to rest and sleep in.
And every night there’s a Las Vegas show,
Elvis, “The Rat Pack” and others you know.

Our heavenly scoreboard tracks all earth’s events,
Like birthdays, and concerts, and money you spent.
The little ones’ victories, concerts, and goals,
Are recorded with love, on St. Peter’s large rolls.

And from high up in heaven, I can still see
all the wonderful ways you all honor me.
The cool honor guard, the pipes and the drums,
The care that you used with my picture album

One more reminder before we all go,
I’ll be watching from heaven above so you know.
I‘ll always love you, I have from the start,
I left you my memories, down deep in your heart.

Remember that hawk that circled the sky?
That was me up in heaven telling you “Hi”.
And the dime that I left you, in my own chair?
My way of reminding you, ”Know I’m still there.”

I found myself screaming, “Don’t leave me, don’t go,”
But deep in my heart, I already know,
That wishing and dreaming and calling your name,
Won’t keep you from heeding your new call to fame.

Your new band of brothers, your fire family,
God’s better angels await you I see.
Responding to fires, saving lives, from above
While saying I miss you, from heaven with love

The light is now dimming I can’t hardly see,
No wait that is smoke, just left of the tree.
And now I hear sounding that eerie alarm,
Warning “get out, get out” away from this harm.

Wait, that’s no alarm, my cell’s calling me,
I’m still on the couch, warm, snug as can be.
Were you really here talking? Or was it a dream?
My mind tried to tell me it’s real as it seems.

Look ! There in the corner, a dirty footprint,
I know you were here, thanks much for the hint.
The air by the tree holds the scent of your smell,
But who would believe me, who would I tell?

That our new band of angels now gathered above
Sent real Christmas Greetings from ones that you love
And left us reminders of what used to be,
And hope for the future on this Christmas Eve.


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