The summer sun fades into falling leaves and a cold breeze. Schools are back in full swing and children’s choirs are practicing the songs of the season. First it is all things fall and reminiscent of the harvest season. Before you know it everywhere you go you hear songs of Santa and Joy to the World. Pumpkin spice and peppermint fills the air. Snow starts to fall and fires are lit to keep the dark evenings just a little brighter.
As the world around embraces the season and the Christmas spirit fill the air, some can not sing the songs of joy for their hearts are grieving. With so much tragedy filling the news cycles, we have all become so aware of the many forms of loss many have had to endure. As time passed those tragedies get closer and closer to home until one day you find it is at your own doorstep and it is in your home as well. You may be dealing with the declining health of a loved one. Or maybe a dear loved one has passed on and you can’t quite imagine a world in which this person is not there.
When I was a child every Christmas was magically. The maternal side of my family traveled from all over the country and gathered each year. On one side of the house was a small country church where my grandfather was the pastor and to the other side was a cow pasture. Not much to look at from a materialistic point of view but to me it was the place of adventures. In that small house I felt the great love of my grandparents and family who gathered there.
During these holidays I made some of my best memories as a child. From staying up past midnight, to help set the table for the morning brunch with my Grandma, to the mistletoe that hung from an archway where my Grandpa would give us kids sloppy kisses on the cheek. As time went on and the kids grew up and started having kids of their own, our Christmas gathering changed. Even as I grieved for the holidays of the past with all the extended family, still my Grandparents were a fixture at every Christmas.
After my grandfather died, Christmas has never been the same. From him helping the youngest reader in the family read the Christmas story from the bible or his diligence in picking up the wrapping paper as it hit the ground after being unwrapped. He is no longer there to do these things. We continue on with these traditions in the best way we know how but nothing can really fill that space.
At times the grief felt during the holidays season is overwhelming. Some might even ask, what is the point of trying to find joy in the season. Should I try to carry on traditions that will never be the same. This simple advice may be helpful to you this time of year: feel your grief and decide on a time frame to sit in your sadness. Take the time to mourn the person and the traditions that are changing. Talk to your friends about how you’re feeling (even if they want to try to “fix” you by cheering you up). Let them know you need this time and space to grieve.
When the time is ripe, get up and carry the spirit of your loved one with you. You will continue to experience grief throughout the holidays, but remind yourself that it’s okay to feel both joy and grief. When the time comes where you can smile again it’s not because the love has faded but because their love has settled within you and you carry it with you wherever you go.