Christmas is coming and it brings so many pieces of joy, of light, but for many also of longing and pain.
I have had many conversations recently with people in the midst of various In-Between’s who are struggling with not feeling the joy, with feeling the pain of feeling disingenuous when saying “Merry Christmas”.
My first Christmas after my divorce and the death of my brother I simply didn’t.
I stopped saying “Merry Christmas”, the words felt so hollow, the pain so deep and the gap between joy and the darkness of my heart so wide. I allowed myself to say “you too” and offer a small smile, but there was no “Merry” that year… and that was okay. I wish someone would have told me that it was okay. I wish someone would have told me that it wouldn’t last forever, but that for right then, in those moments there was no “Merry”. I struggled with wanting to feel “Merry”, I wanted so desperately to be “normal”, I wanted to care, but there wasn’t enough energy left, there wasn’t room in my heart for any “Merry”.
My friend who had lost her daughter was telling me about a Christmas card she received where at the bottom of the card a well-meaning someone had written “I hope all is well”. Her eyes filed with tears and her voice broke as she shared the pain those words had caused. This is the second year without their daughter to celebrate and all is not well. Although the capacity to feel joy, to see beauty, to share love will increase right now it is overshadowed by the grief and loss. Those words stung- a reminder that life is permanently changed, there is a before and after and you aren’t in the place to see that it will ever be “well” again and that the loss looms so large.
Other friends are struggling with the desire for “perfect” Christmases when children are melting down, parents nerves are strung tight, and everyone just seems to be overwhelmed and overstimulated. We all need to remind each other to hold ourselves gently, to know that our efforts are enough, that even though it doesn’t always feel like it. The magic of Christmas is that grace weaves it’s way through the difficult moments, that often there is a sparkle of light when you least expect it, and that meaning can be found in the simple moments shared together. I invite you to remember the most memorable moments of Christmas for you and I doubt they have anything to do with the presents you received but more than likely with the time that is shared, the memories created while catching snowflakes on your tongue, sipping hot chocolate after making snow angels, or watching the snow fall like diamonds in the purple veil of night. Allow yourself the space to breathe, to be gentle with yourself and to be where you are. Which may or may not be “Merry”, and that is okay.
May you be held in the magic of the season, may the warmth and love of those in your life hold you close as you heal. May your brokenness feel a little less sharp, may your tears bring healing and hope and may your heart find the healing that it seeks.
If you are in the midst of grief I offer you these words:
You have permission to not say “Merry Christmas.”
You have permission to be frustrated, to be hurt and to be upset by well-meaning friends and family who don’t understand the depth of your pain, the place you are in or the difficulty this season might bring.
You have permission for the lights that are meant to bring hope instead to sting your heart and illuminate the gap between what you “want” and what you have.
You have permission to cling to the love of those that surround you, to take more than you give, to trust that someday you will be able to give again when life fills you and it is your turn to support, to offer hope, to be the light. You have permission for that time not to be now.
You have permission to feel great love in the midst of great loss.
You have permission to miss that person, place or thing that you have lost while holding a space in your heart for the possibility of what is yet to come.
You have permission to cry and to laugh and to remember and to share those memories.
And for those who are grieving the loss of someone you love…
You have permission to say their name, to bring up in conversation the memories, the love, the loss that you feel.
You have permission to not know where you are.
You have permission not to be “Merry”.
For those who are supporting those in the midst of grief:
Say the name of those we have lost knowing that your acknowledgment may bring tears, but know that is a part of the healing. Your remembering soothes our heart.
Acknowledge the struggle that this season may bring.
Ask us to share memories of those that we have lost, allow us the opportunities to remember the love, the laughter and the memories. Allow us space to keep the love alive in our heart.
Know that your presence is a gift in and of itself.
Know that we may cling to you for the love and light we are looking for – but you are not responsible for making us “Merry”.
Know that even though it doesn’t take the place of what was lost your love is enough.