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  • Writer's pictureEmilie Macas

A Reminder that Christmas can be Painfully Jolly

“Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year.” 

I've heard this expression all my life, and after all these years, I can’t find myself to feel these words fully. I do experience the magic at Christmas through the eyes of my children. Since I became a mother, I have made sure to nurture the magic of Christmas for them. 

The chocolate countdown until Christmas, our special Elf, the letter to Santa, the decorations, and more. My most beautiful gift is watching their eyes, full of wonder and magic, every Christmas, with our time spent together and all the memories we create. 

At the same time, a small piece of my heart aches, and this pinch of sadness rushes through me. I miss my mom tremendously. She loved Christmas. She loved baking and cooking all the traditional Portuguese food. We had a tradition to bake some pastries on Christmas Eve. We never celebrated Christmas as a child because my father was a Jehovah’s Witness member and didn’t allow it. Still, my mom always baked these traditional pastries. It was the only thing she had that connected her with this memorable holiday. I believe that is why her pastries were always so delicious. She poured so much love into them. She taught us her traditions, and now I carry them forward. Each time I work on the dough, I see her hands, hear her voice, and I wish she were here. 

My eldest son had the chance to experience the love of his grandmothers, but my little one didn’t. I feel for my little one, because just like me, she has missed out on a powerful connection and the tremendous love in her life from her grandmothers. Christmas is undoubtedly a reminder for me, and now a realization for her.

A Reminder that Christmas can be painfully jolly

The Distance


Christmas is to be spent with family with cheerful holiday spirit. Living in North America and having my loved ones in Europe make the holidays much more challenging.

As we all prepare our get-togethers, our hearts are tight, we all miss each other, and nothing seems complete. I always have this feeling that something is missing.

Technology helps us feel closer, which I am grateful for, but the distance feels heavy. I miss my silliness with my loved ones, the hugs, and the laughter. The intimacy of our love makes everything better and everything lighter.

After all, the preciousness of Christmas is spending time with our loved ones, laughing, and creating memories. 

It is like my heart is always geographically displaced. 

There are so many memories we miss creating when we are so far away from our loved ones. 

“Missing family is like carrying a piece of them in your heart, a weight that can never be lifted.” - Unknown


I believe we can only fully understand something when we go through the experience ourselves. Almost twelve years ago, I lost my mother, and if Christmas was already challenging, after losing her, it became even more painful. This year, I lost my father and my nephew. I miss my boy. My heart aches at the thought that his life was only starting. He had so much more to live and accomplish. It is unnatural to see a twenty-year-old go, but as I mentioned in my first sentence, I don’t understand what the pain of losing a child is. My sister does, as do many other mothers in this world. This excruciating pain of grief can be unbearable, but I can only imagine the burden of losing a child. 

As I prepare for Christmas this year, I can’t stop thinking of my sister and how difficult it is, and it will be the first Christmas without her son. 

My heart aches thinking of all the mothers who will be missing their children, and all the people grieving a loved one. 

I can’t stop thinking how “the most beautiful time of the year” can also mean the most painful one for so many worldwide. 

I shared this blog and a little piece of my heart as a reminder that this time of the year can be magical. The decorations and the beautiful lights are a testimonial of the beauty of time this year. It is true, but it also can be one of the most difficult times of the year for so many. We are so busy and focused on buying presents and food for our get-togethers that we may forget that the true spirit of Christmas is certainly not about presents, but the gift of presence. Many grieving people feel so sad and depleted that they don’t want to ruin the holidays for others. Reaching out to those who find it challenging this time of year can lift a little bit of the pain in their hearts. No magic word will make their pain disappear, but the gift of presence, being there in silence, or bringing a plate of food may not bring their loved ones back, but it will certainly make their day a little brighter and warm their hearts knowing that people care. By acknowledging their loss and allowing grieving people to share their stories, you will be validating and comforting their aching hearts. 

If you can this Christmas, take a moment to observe what is going on around you. Not everyone will be jolly. Some may look cranky, but you never know what is behind the crankiness of certain people. 

A smile can touch an aching heart if you can spread the magic of Christmas by being present and kind. 

If you know people who lost someone or are not doing well, check on them. They will feel a sparkle of light and warmth in their heart, feeling that they matter and are not alone. 

I wish you all a wonderful holiday filled with love, light, and peace. 

With love, 



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