Many holidays were birthed from or originally contained rituals that were designed to help human beings connect to the seasons and the passage of time in meaningful ways, yet we seem to travel further and further away from these roots each year. To revitalize the meaning inherent to the holiday season, I always encourage people to create rituals for themselves that will remind them of the underlying principles of all rituals — to let go of what no longer serves your higher purpose and send an open invitation to the qualities that you would like to enhance in your life.
This is the time of year when we start to do a lot of things without much attention; we start running on automatic at the very time it would serve us best to be more intentional. There’s so much packed into the few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that it hardly seems there could even be room for holes. And yet, they’re there — those spaces between what we’re doing and what it all really means. It’s easy to rush past the meaning in our efforts to just get it all done. This year, I made it a point to be intentional and fill those holes.
Beyond the decorating, shopping, cooking and parties, there are “reasons for the season” and if we put first the true meaning of our holidays, the real reason we have them in the first place, our priorities become clear, making it easier for us to follow suit with our actions. And if we take an honest look at our priorities, we can probably separate those things we do out of a sense of obligation and duty from those in which we truly find joy. This is what I deeply wanted — to slow down and focus on the true meaning of the holiday season, to establish and define traditions, to make the days leading up to Christmas be all about spreading pure love and joy. And here we are, with the actual holiday finally upon us.
Despite what the lyrics may say, the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. I will admit, I’ve been struggling. This will be the first Christmas without two of my sisters and for the past several weeks, I’ve been desperately trying to avoid feelings of sadness — turning it off in public, so as not to dampen anyone else’s holiday spirit. Honestly, I’ve been hiding out in my apartment to avoid those uncomfortable moments. Because when you have lost someone special, your world loses its celebratory qualities; holidays only magnify the loss. For the past several weeks, I’ve been feeling fully overwhelmed by the realization that the gaping hole that is left behind by the loss of a loved one, is something that will never truly go away. I deeply and intimately know this, having been without my parents for most of my life adult life. This year, I find myself deep in the grieving process over my parents, sisters and friends that passed this year and before — every significant loss that I have ever experienced. It feels extremely raw and it’s a lot to process. Whenever I get impatient or frustrated with myself, I have to remember that there is no typical loss and no typical response to loss; our grief is as individual as our lives. And I need to give myself permission to be sad, to move through my grief in a way that feels comfortable.
If you’re facing a similar battle with grief, please know that you are never alone. And while the grief doesn’t go away, it will fade and every passing day, every passing holiday, every passing year will bring you a little bit closer to celebrating memories of your loved ones, the holiday season and the beauty of life again. We just have to remember that love and support is always there for us, even in ways that cannot be seen or comprehended. Give yourself permission to create meaning in your own way. Don’t hesitate to do whatever makes the holidays more meaningful and more bearable for you, but remember to create space to honor your grief and pain.
For me, there is always great pleasure in helping others and immersing myself in gratitude. And after a morning of teaching and volunteering with old and new friends, I’m looking forward to a quiet afternoon and evening of writing and reflection. There are so many wonderful things to be grateful for this year and I want to count those blessings. Even the saddest goodbyes ushered in the most amazing opportunities to open new doors, light the path of healing and ultimately, discover peace.
So, Merry Christmas! To anyone whose holiday plans are not shaping up as “expected,” I pray that you take comfort in what is, rather than what hasn’t come or what used to be. That you remember that the future is still bright. And that you carry the joy and surprise of the season with you, no matter if someone or something else comes along to share it with you. Whatever you’re going through right now, it’s my pleasure to share my own process and remind you that all you need this holiday season is a little faith, patience and YOU.