Today, I heard again the Christmas song about the little boy whose mother is dying on Christmas eve and he wants to buy her shoes to wear as she goes into heaven. He doesn’t have enough money to buy the shoes and a person in line gives him the money he needs. It’s never been my favorite Christmas song because of the obvious sentimentality. The song was never realistic to me. Yet, it deliberately strokes my heart strings with grief and sorrow.

However, I heard it in the context of a devotion by a pastor who shared the song. He spoke about his wife who died of cancer when his two daughters were teenagers. Unashamed, the Man of God cried as he read the words, remembering the first Christmas his daughters experienced without their mother.

Many people who are intellectually disabled come perplexed to the crossroads of holidays with mixed emotions. During this time, why should they have to struggle to walk in joy when it seems easier to become swallowed by grief? We must not forget that people who are mentally challenged may not have the cognitive ability or possess the navigational tools which help them to choose the joyful paths which allow them to experience peace as they remember loved ones lost through death or separation.

Distraction may be the best way to redirect their thoughts. However, I try always to pray out loud for our members who are grieving during this time. A hug and quick prayer for them works miracles. The prayer I often pray is, “Father, bless my good friend as she grieves for her loss. Help her to remember that her loved one is no longer in need of prayer. Let her find your peace for today and for the rest of this joyful time.” As I release them from the hug, I smile and encourage my member to also smile.

Does it always work? Nope. But at least he knows that God and I love him and that God cares enough to take time to hear his prayer. That is, of course, the work God has called us to to do. What is something that you use to help your members who are grieving during holidays?

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