Kay Warren: 'Don't Send Cheery Christmas Cards to Grieving Families' This Holiday Season

( [email protected] ) Dec 11, 2014 12:04 PM EST
Kay Warren
Rick and Kay Warren launched the Saddleback Church Mental Health Ministry following their son Matthew's death. (Mental Health and the Church/The Gospel Herald)

Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" and  pastor of Saddleback Church On April 5, 2013, recently opened up about the difficulties of experiencing Christmas after experiencing loss and shared some advice for families who are sending out holiday cards this year.

The Warren's son, Matthew who suffered from severe depression illness committed suicide at the age of 27.

Kay writes in an article published on Christianity Today that Christmas 2013 was the family's first without Matthew.

"I could barely breathe. I stayed away from the grocery store and the mall, fearing I couldn't hold it together in either. The Internet became my friend as I shopped late at night, without sentimental mall music stirring up memories of Christmases past-when all three of my children were alive," she recounts.

Rick and Kay Warren
(Photo : Facebook)

But what she found most difficult during the holiday season were the numerous Christmas cards that well-meaning friends and family would send her family.

The pastor's wife writes that many of the cards contained pictures of happy, intact families, and were accompanied by a a greeting wishing them a joyous Christmas.

Others included a standard family newsletter, giving a list of their accomplishments, vacations, and delightful family moments they had experienced throughout the year.

"I grew astonished, then angry, as I realized that none of the cards mentioned that our precious Matthew had died violently six months earlier, leaving us definitely not having a joyous Christmas," Kay remembers.

She eventually stopped opening the Christmas cards, as the well-meaning messages from family and friends were too painful to endure.

"The cards remained unopened in the traditional iron sleigh that has held our cards through the years until after Christmas Day had passed," she writes.

When Kay opened the first Christmas card this season, she was hoping the feelings of anger and sorrow she had last year about the Christmas cards had disappeared, but it hadn't. So, once again, she threw the card away.

Last week, she wrote about her experience on her Facebook page, advising her readers to send a plain card to grieving families rather than the standard "happy family"  photo.  

She continued, "Tell them in a few words that you are aware of how painful Christmas can be and that you are praying for them. Yes, it's inconvenient-it will take more time than your rushed signature, and it will require entering into someone else's loss, mourning, grief, and anger."

In concluding her Facebook statement, Kay emphasized that she writes on behalf of grieving parents everywhere:

"If you aren't willing to modify your way of sending cards for a while, please do us a favor and take us off your list," she wrote, adding that it is "unfortunate" that such a card does not exist.

But in continuing the Christianity Today article, Kay thanks her friends and family who continue walking with her and Rick in their walk of grief.

"There are those who enter fully into our tears when we need to cry, who make us laugh at ourselves and at life, who gently inspire us to keep seeking beauty from these ashes, and who point us-with their lives more than their words-to our eternal hope and home," she writes.

The pastor's wife adds that she is praying for those who mourn during the holiday season--for any cause.

"May we find in the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ the fulfillment of the words that Zechariah prophesied long ago: "Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God's Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)"