“There is much I want to say, as if the saying could prepare you for this path, as if there is anything I could offer that would make your way less circuitous, more smooth….”  ~The Shimmering Hours  (Jan Richardson)

The holidays ideally are a time of food and family, love, laughter and joy. Not everyone experiences the holidays framed in that way.  When we experience the death of someone we love, lose a job, a home, our health or the significant impact Covid 19 is having in our lives right now, the holidays are different. 

When I think of the first Thanksgiving and Christmas after our daughter died I remember just wanting to go away.  There was nothing to celebrate.  Three surviving children kept me grounded in this different normal and we found our way through very different holidays, even though similar food was shared and eaten (turkey with all the trimmings), gifts were opened and stockings were hung, she was not there and her absence was very present. In retrospect, what was different was the immense emptiness and longing for her to be physically present, and the reality was she was physically absent.

Holidays following loss evoke a variety of challenges for us; spiritually, emotionally and physically.  It seems there is nothing anyone could offer

“that would make your way less circuitous”, in others words make our grief journey less harsh because grief is not a straight path. It winds its way through the days, weeks and months following the loss and take us with it. 

The bereaved say they are afraid, worried, uncomfortable, and uncertain what to do about the holidays.  What if I cry, what if I cannot be joy filled, what if I just don’t want a tree this year or don’t want to cook a turkey? There is nothing that prepares us for what was and now what is, except the understanding and love we can embrace from others.  Holidays are really a time for reflection, gratitude, awareness, waiting and being present.  Do what you can and let go of others’ expectations of you.

I invite you to enter the holidays with the gift of quiet to notice the Presence who surrounds you with tenderness in your grief.  Imagine Mary, who understands the depth of all grief, walking with you or sitting beside you and her presence as comforter. Jesus is our model of healing. Imagine Jesus’ healing presence holding your broken heart.  Light a candle and speak of your loved one, say their name, let love flow in your tears, place a photo to let them be present in this holiday season. Hang a remembrance ornament, make a donation in their memory, continue with traditions or start new ones. Acknowledge any gratitude for them in your life, let them be the error prone human we all are and give yourself the grace to do or not to do; to have a holiday you can manage.  Recognize you are living yourself into a different life; this life that has stability and history and will help you thrive and not just survive this holiday and those in the years ahead.  Notice what you are trying to push away and instead allow yourself to be curious about how this loss can be your teacher, transforming your life in ways you could not imagine until this moment.  There are many gifts along the journey of grief, even though you may not be able to see them or imagine them right now. Be alert and stay awake for you know not when they might be present, maybe these gifts are The Present you wanted but did not know where to find it or how to welcome it.

As Jan Richardson continues in her blessing:

“It is all about what you will do with this moment…….

So open your heart to these shimmering hours by which your path is made.

Open your eyes to the light that shines on what you will need to see. 

Open your hands to those who go with you, those seen and those known only by their blessing, their benediction of the road that is your own.”

My prayer for you is for peaceful holidays with memories and love shared and treasured, even in the depth of your grief.  This too shall pass, in time, with openness and awareness of presence of God’s love and care for you.