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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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Black and Blues

The holiday season began with Thanksgiving. We took a deep breath and stepped on the roller coaster ride that would zip us through a gauntlet of paper-wrapped, bow-tied, fancy-dan celebrations and parties, changing out the decorations of one as the next holiday begins. 

Depending upon your background, your formal observances could include Hanukkah, Advent, the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s. (Diwali came earlier this year.) In addition, we have all of our seasonal gatherings with family and friends.
For those of us who lost loved ones this year, the holidays will be a nightmare.
The holidays generally leave most of us bruised and wondering if they are worth the trouble. The endless shopping, baking, and gathering with gaggles and pods of people will deposit us on January 2nd feeling fragmented and exhausted. Many of us will wonder if we are any better, happier or wiser for having participated in them, and we will think about politely declining a few invitations next year so that we can move through at a more mindful pace, one that nurtures us.

If we're grieving, for six weeks we will be reminded of who is missing. For six weeks there will be unending anguish and despair, studded with death, shaded with shadows, and silent of all the laughter and joy that we experienced last year. For six weeks the holidays will remind us over and over of the empty chair in the room.

No matter where we go or what we do, we will be confronted by happy people (some who are pretending). If you lost a spouse, you will feel bitter when you see happy couples. If you lost a child, watching children skipping through the snow will dig a knife in deep.
We are allowed to step off the holiday ride.

There will be little fa-la-la for us this year, and maybe not even the next, because in the first year we walk with the ghost of the person who died. The second year will be filled with their absence.

Every time we venture into public during the holidays, the message we hear in the songs on the radio and the specials on television is that everyone should be happy, and if you’re not, then something is wrong with us.

The holidays aren’t about the sparkling lights, sleigh bells or happy dulcimer music. These are only the wrappings. The heart of the holidays is inside. The holidays are about slowing down, listening to our lives and to what is surging, rumbling and tumbling in the hearts and dreams of others.

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

Pick what nourishes you and ignore the rest. Be with those who accept you as you are this year. Maybe you only want to take long walks through nature, listen to the land, and feel the assurance of its deep presence.

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. Watch the wonder of the stars. Let the tension settle. You have taken a big risk by choosing to be among happy people. You can choose to go home at any time. And if you invited someone who is grieving, allow them to sit on the side and participate as they want.

Sometime during the holidays, you may be in a cafĂ© by yourself, or at a bar, or in a chair at home looking out the window, when a wave of melancholy sweeps over, or a song comes on and reminds you of the person who isn’t here, and you will cry. What this means is that you have loved someone deeply. It would be worse if you shut down and didn’t let yourself feel anything at all.

The gift of the holidays is compassion. No special wrapping required.

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