Ugh. The light off the snow was way to bright. It was searing into my brain making everything unpleasant. Kind of like the season we are in – too bright, too frilly, too shiny, too silly*. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas has its beautiful, wonderful, blessing filled moments but it also slaps faces and throws gut punches to those living in grief, loss and mourning.
It’s that gut punch that makes it hard to breathe. Or perhaps it’s the pressure to maintain an appearance of full function. I remember being teased by a co-worker when I would be out of breath simply moving about the building. In that time of loss I found it took so much effort to hold it all together the act of breathing became expendable. I had just enough strength to do one or the other – hold it together or breathe properly. One or the other, not both. Of course then I’d be completely winded doing a short flight of stairs or carrying boxes from one space to another.
In that time, there were mornings I would picture wrapping strips of duct tape tightly around my heart so I could complete the necessary tasks of the day. It wasn’t a holiday season so even more so, how does one function in a world gloriously celebrating family and friends, gifts and holidays, festivities dripping with joy and brightness? And how does one come alongside someone who’s heart is in pieces held together by duct tape and tears?
Ugly truth alert: we are uncomfortable in each other’s messiness. We don’t like pain or grief or loss or confusion or any of the weighty emotions that are tangled up with grief. To alleviate our own discomfort in the face of someone else’s mess and broken heartedness, we try to cheer them up, pointing to the simplistic, speaking what we intend to be comfort that creates further separation and at worst, deeper wounds.
Perhaps then permission for those in loss – permission both from themselves and from others – to sit in the time of loss. To mourn how they need to mourn. If that means no tree, no lights, no decorations, minimal interactions with the public, so be it. Do what your heart needs you to do. For those in a position to love and care for them, permission to do the above and invitation to simply and sometimes silently be present. Permission to yourself to feel uncomfortable, to not have the right words, to lean in and be present. You don’t, you can’t and you shouldn’t fix it. But your love and presence means the world.
In a nutshell, grief is heavy. Holidays can hurt. It is hard for everyone. Be gentle with yourself, with others. Love deeply and don’t rush to fix it.
*Think Berenstain Bears Old Hat New Hat is hard to expunge from this mom’s brain…
For help navigating grief and loss, consider joining a GriefWalk community.