Grief And Gratitude This Holiday Season
A personal note on loss and love and everything in between.
The month of December is all about spreading joy, love, and kindness. Just this past week, at least a dozen strangers happy holiday-ed me while out and about. This kind of energy is really lovely and it ususally lights me up inside. Unequivocable joy followed by contemplative pause for reflection on all of the good from the past year, along with what I am more than ready to leave behind. But this year…this year, it has been quite the contrast in emotions. And I am wondering if anyone else is going through it with me?
This December, I have had my head stuck in a thick gray cloud. It has been a period of immense grief and loneliness. With unexpected change slamming into me like a freight train, I find myself scrambling to find balance. I’ll be honest, I have thrown myself a few pity parties for one, told myself unkind stories that I know are also untrue, allowed myself to be angry, and cried myself to sleep at night. In terms of the grief process – I have finally allowed myself to lean into my sadness. I have opened myself up to feeling deeply and whole heartedly, and although ugly at times – the sadness has been strangely healing. Even oddly comforting, like a familiar friend who shows up simply to listen. After talking with someone recently, I can understand why. I had a conversation with a friend of mine, and it has completely rocked my entire perspective. This individual recently lost his mother in a tragic and unexpected accident. He shared that while deeply grief-stricken by this profound loss, he has found ineffable refuge in God, and has clung to his faith. The sadness he experiences is thick and palpable, and this is because of the love he had and will always have for his mom. With this grief, comes a real sense of gratitude. Gratitude for a beautiful relationship with his mom and the memories he will forever cherish. Gratitude for a God that keeps him afloat and who says, “I am here and I am with you through all of it.” This got me thinking about grief and gratitude and how they go hand in hand.
Grief and gratitude are not separate ideas. They are often completely interwoven or one bleeds into the other depending on one’s experience. I am learning this slowly. I can be sad. I can be angry. I can allow myself to feel the myriad of emotions that come and go like thieves in the night, hitting me when I least expect them to. And, I can be grateful for the opportunity to feel each one deeply and uniqely. I have these feelings BECAUSE I have loved with all of my heart and poured myself into this love. I have learned to forgive, I have been forgiven, I have trusted, and I have been given the trust of others. I do not regret these expressions of love, as they remind me that I am alive and growing. The growing pains are real and deeply painful. More importantly though, they show me that I have so much love to give and that I too deserve to be loved in return. With each loss, I believe we are reminded of who we are at our cores. Just as my friend reminded me, whether it is through our faiths, through the support of loved ones, or the belief we hold in ourselves, or maybe a combination of all of the above – we are reminded of all the life that has been lived to get to this point. We can be in the midst of our deepest suffering and remember that we suffer because we have been given such unique and meaningful life experiences. We suffer because we loved with everything we had. We suffer because we have such happy memories and when we lose someone or something dear to our hearts, the loss hits hard. It is complicated, messy, and yet strangely so beautiful. I recognize, some of us suffer for very different reasons. We experience a loss without any type of closure or understanding. I have been there. And I see that the more I can allow myself to feel what I need to feel, the more peace I am given. Maybe your experience is different, but it usually takes me a lot of time to sit with these feelings. There is no rushing, no cutting corners - just wading in the thick muck of it all. And for me, the wading and waiting - that is where the real healing takes place.
If you find yourself in a place of hardship, especially when the world is telling you to stay joyful, give yourself the grace to be honest with yourself and others. And when that stranger on the street smiles at you, allow yourself to smile back. Seize every moment of joy and let it light you up. It is not all or nothing this holiday season. You are a complex being. Ride out that rollercoaster of emotions. When you can find reasons to be grateful, hold on to them. There are many, even in in our moments of despair. They come to us in simple acts of kindness from someone we hardly know reminding us that we exist and we are seen, hugs from friends and family who are dear to us, a phone call with someone who we can be our truest, most vulnerable selves with, meditation and movement, laughter, tears, and angels bringing us precious memories at times we desperately need them. Gratitude and grief. If you have to grieve, may you let your feelings wash over you, and may the waters settle around you, filling you with both gratitude and healing this holiday season. As we look to 2023, may we find peace and realize that we, that YOU are worthy of love – love from others, and most importantly the love that you give yourself.