Christmas isn’t always joyful.

Marriages go through rough patches, people get sick, and when you’ve suffered loss in your family, Christmas can bring that all back like nothing else.

Today I have Samantha Duncan on the blog, who is actually one of the women who works on the blog in the newsletter department. Today’s post isn’t like our regular posts, but we wanted to bring some encouragement to other families who may be trying to balance the joy of Christmas with the grief of loss that comes with the holidays.

If Christmas isn’t always joyful for you, know you’re not alone. And God is in the sadness, too.

Here’s Sam:

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When I think of Christmas, I think of twinkling lights and carols and family.

For a lot of people, family is a big part of Christmas and it is for me too, except my family used to be a lot bigger.

Christmas 2007 changed my family forever. I was 15. It was a wonderful time–there were lots of gifts, and laughter when my brother couldn’t figure out how to put a toy work station together, or when he decided he was going to wrap our sister’s gift in his backpack because I wouldn’t wrap it properly for him.

This was also when he really challenged my faith. I was the only Christian in my family, and he couldn’t understand why I believed. I have never been good at defending myself, so I ran upstairs to my room in tears when he was debating me. About a half hour later, my brother apologized for upsetting me and then told me how proud he was that I stuck to my faith when I was the only one in the family who was Christian. And he told me just how proud he was of me and that he was glad that I was his sister. The next day he said goodbye to his three siblings and gave us what he called a “chin hug,” which was when he hugged you and he hooked his chin over your shoulder to draw you in closer.

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That was the last time I saw my brother Scott.

He passed away December 30th, 2007 in a diabetic coma. He was alone, his blood sugar had spiked, and he wasn’t able to get his insulin in time.  He was only 27 years old.

Christmas would never be the same for my family ever again, especially for my mom.  

Fast forward a few years to 2014. That was a year of ups and downs for my family. A few months before my wedding, my eldest brother found out he had bone cancer. He was hospitalized almost immediately. He was able to make it my wedding, which was a huge blessing, but he was in a wheelchair the whole time and spent most of it inside the house since he couldn’t get down to the backyard and it was too hot for him to be outside.

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Samantha’s sister, Carolyn, with their brother, Chris

My brother is an inspiration to me. He was such a trooper through everything.  He was so positive and the nurses who took care of him absolutely loved him because of his attitude and his character.

Every moment he could, he chose to have fun–even scaring the daylights out of a nurse when he had to wear a special mask that he said reminded him of Jason (the horror movie character). Then when he would get back from surgery where another part of his bone had been replaced by metal, he would tell everyone he was just that much closer to becoming Wolverine.

When we got the news they had found cancer in his lungs and that he wouldn’t survive past Christmas, my sister came back from Australia where she lives and she threw our brother a party where all of our family and his friends could come and celebrate his life with him and, realistically, say goodbye. I cannot express how much love my brother and our family was shown that day.

Christmas came and went and my brother held on. And Chris held on to see his 37th birthday in March and then passed away on March 21st, 2015.

Christmas brings up sorrow in its own unique way.

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Samantha and her daughter Madelyn

Losing both of my brothers has changed the Christmas season for my family. We lost Scott just days after Christmas ten years ago, and then we also lost Chris. Our family now has a giant hole that will never be filled. The year after Scott passed was when I started dating my husband and it hurts knowing how well they would have gotten along. And this October I gave birth to our first child. My daughter will never get to meet her uncles and my heart is breaking again as I write this. My brothers would have adored their niece so much and she would have loved them. Knowing this is what makes this Christmas so hard.

And I know I’m not the only one with a heavy heart this Christmas season. There are so many people who are hurting. But amidst the pain, know that you are not alone–it’s okay to be sad. Our family has had to learn to find joy where we can, even if it’s just in watching the snow fall, or hearing the story of Jesus’ birth. And don’t be afraid to let people come alongside you. Let them help you carry the weight of your hurt because it’s hard to carry alone.

Matthew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Is there anyone in your life you can remind this holiday season of how much they are loved?

It might just be the best gift they could receive this year.


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