Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Silence of the Holidays

Listen for the heart.

The holiday season began with Thanksgiving. Now we’re into a star-studded, paper-wrapped, bow-tied lineup of celebrations, parties, and decorations that we change out as one holiday ends and the next one begins. Depending on your background, your observances could include Hanukkah, Advent, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years.

The holidays are stressful for almost everyone. The endless shopping, baking, and gathering with crowds of people will deposit us on January 2nd feeling exhausted and wondering if we are any better, happier, or wiser for having participated in them.

For those of us who lost loved ones this year, the holidays will be a nightmare.

For us, it is six weeks of unending anguish and despair. The weeks will be dark with death, shaded with memory shadows, and silent of laughter and joy. The holidays will remind us, over and over, of our grief, no matter where we go or what we do. There will be no fa-la-la for us this year, and maybe not even the next, because the first year we miss the person who died. The second year we realize our loss is permanent, and our loved ones are never coming back.

The message we will encounter every time we venture into public, listen to the radio, or watch television, is that everyone should be happy, and if we’re not, then something is wrong with us. Some of us will hide away until the holidays are over, and try not to think of how we celebrated last year with our loved ones, because we know that we will never celebrate like that again.

Take care of yourself. Pick what nourishes you and ignore the rest. Be with those who accept you as you are this year.

As an introvert, I’m not fond of large gatherings in any season. If I stay too long, they take more energy out than give. As for finding the right present for everyone, the truth is, I don’t know if everyone really needs a new waffle iron this year.

Sue might like a box of cranberry-apple tea and an afternoon together drinking the first serving. Steve might like to share a walk along Lake Mendota and catch up on how our lives have shifted this year. Daniel might like a helping hand for a day as he cleans his basement and organizes it into a space that will finally enable him to sit down and write about the person who changed his life.

The holidays really aren’t about the sparkling lights, sleigh bells, or happy dulcimer music. These are just window dressing. The holidays are about the heart, of listening to our hearts, and listening to what is surging, rumbling, and bumbling around the hearts of others. The holidays should be about slowing down, not speeding up, and about being mindful of how we live each day. 

We aren’t obligated to be happy on the holidays. We can say “No” to all invitations.

Sense where you want to be and what will nurture you. If you go to a party, and pressure starts building within and you want to bolt, take a break and go outside for a moment. Take a deep breath, watch the wonder of the stars, and let your feelings settle.

You should be proud. You have taken a risk by choosing to be among happy people. Now you can choose to go home or stay a little longer.

Listen to your heart for what feels right. And if something comes along that makes you feel good and makes you smile, you can say “Yes” without feeling guilty.

I give thanks this year for the Refuge in Grief community. (www.refugeingrief.com/)