2009-12-03 / Community News

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Holidays are Hard on Those Who’ve Experienced Tragedy

Question: My husband and I struggle around the holidays. Everywhere we look we see images of happy children. We love kids, but we lost our young son several years ago and it’s sometimes hard to manage our emotions. Do you have any insight?

Dr. Dobson: I am so sorry for your loss. There are many others who have experienced similar tragedies. For you and the others who have lost a precious child, the entire month of December is filled with its own peculiar variety of sorrow. Cherubic faces and toys and televised cartoons only serve to intensify indescribable longings.

Hearing of your predicament, I’m reminded of a letter I received years ago from a man who has reason to understand this period of vulnerability. His words, written to the memory of his daughter, revealed a father’s broken heart of love. But the note also contained a certain sense of triumph and blessing. Apparently his little girl had suffered from an extended illness and together they had endured a long season of sorrow. He wrote, “Bristol, now you are free! I look forward to that day, according to God’s promises, when we will be joined together, completely whole and full of joy. I’m so happy that you have your crown first.”

To this father I would say, “Thank you, sir, for sharing this most intimate note to your precious daughter. It made us feel that we have walked a few steps down the lonely road you have trod. Your indomitable spirit will strengthen and inspire others who harbor their own private sorrow during this season of celebration. There are millions who would identify with your travail, I’m sure.”

Because of what we celebrate at Christmas and later, Easter, death has no permanent victory over those who believe. The grave has lost its sting. The trials and tribulations of this life are but momentary setbacks in light of an eternity of joy and bliss. This is the true meaning of the season, and I pray that despite the unavoidable sadness of this broken world, that assurance might provide you with some measure of comfort.

Question: I’ve talked and talked to my husband about how I’m different from him and how I need him to be sensitive to my needs. Somehow, he just doesn’t “hear” it. I’ve also gotten mad at him about a hundred times. How can I get my feelings across to him?

Dr. Dobson: One very effective way to express your feelings is to paint a word picture. My good friends Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent described this technique in their book, “The Language of Love.” In it, Gary told a story about his wife, who was very frustrated with him. Gary would come home from work and clam up. He had nothing to say all evening. Finally, Norma told him a story about a man who went to breakfast with some friends. He ate a big meal, and then he gathered up some crumbs and put them in a bag. Then he went to lunch with some business associates and ate a big steak. Again, he put a few crumbs in a doggie bag to take with him. Then when he came home that night, he handed his wife the little bag of leftovers.

“That’s what you are doing to me,” said Norma. “All day the children and I wait to talk with you when you get home. But you don’t share yourself with us. After being gone all day, you hand us a doggie bag and turn on the television set.”

Gary said hearing that story was like being hit with a two-by-four. He apologized and began to work on opening himself to his wife and his family.

Try creating a graphic word picture to communicate your needs to your husband. It is far more effective at getting masculine attention than a torrent of hostile comments.

Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org).

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