Thursday, November 17, 2011
Gratitude, Anticipation, Joy...and Grief
Recently, I've been giving a lot of thought to grieving and the holidays. Yeah, I know, that's a rough way to begin a post isn't it?
Yet, it is that time of year when family and friends draw near.
It is that time of year when family and friends draw near and notice who isn't there.
We have been trained by the great marketing experts to deny any sadness this time of year. My own grief is not nearly so intense this year as it has been previously. The heaviness began to fade last year around this time. I was surprised by that. You see, my mother fell just after Thanksgiving 2006. A lot of you reading this will be very familiar with the downward spiral that follows a fall by the elderly, especially the cognitively challenged elderly. By December 22nd she was gone. So, Thanksgiving and Christmas have really been difficult for me for a few years.
Yes, I have "put on the good face" for my children's sake, so that they could have a "good" holiday season. Of course, we all know what happens when the "good face" goes on, right? In our family, in my life, when my "good face" goes on, my attitude goes down the tubes. I get very tired, very emotional, very paranoid....just very everything! Not an enjoyable way to spend the holidays!
Nor is it the way we really should spend the holidays. I am quite fortunate to have a community of family and friends who are very supportive of me during the holidays. They understand. Indeed, there have been times when my pastor has bravely and compassionately suggested that I step back a little and take it easy during the worst of my down time. That was hard to hear. Yet, it was very good advice.
As we enter into a time of grieving, whether it is heavy and intense or simply a period of occasional sadness, it is healthy to step back and allow that to happen. Grief is a natural emotion surrounding loss. The loss does not have to be about death either. Grief happens when we lose a job, a friend, a house, a community. Even good transitions can bring grief!
Our family has endured a good bit of stress this last year, leaving us tentative at times in hoping all will be well. Yet, I can't help but experience my faith that God is in this life of ours; that God is moving blocks around that will slowly fall into place in a way that will further God's plan for our lives.
Perhaps that very plan involves my healing from the deepest of my grief. My personal belief is that my mother is healed and whole and "understands" all of those things that she always questioned. My belief is comforting this year in a way it hasn't always been. That is a good thing; a God thing.
When I think about our traditional holiday season, it encompasses Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas--a season full of gratitude, anticipation, joy...and grief. Is it possible to enjoy a time of giving thanks for what God has provided, even the way in which God has provided, all that we need? Rejoice in the face of grief? Of loss? I believe it is, given what God has provided. That whole "all that we need" is what Christmas is all about. The love of God, healing, merciful, forgiving, comforting...yes, that was the gift of Christmas...yes, that is what any of us who are grieving need the most.
Dare I say that I am looking forward to experiencing the depth and breadth of my emotions this holiday season. The gratitude, anticipation, joy...and grief, each as it comes; each as the gift that it is, bringing me closer to God, to my family, to my community.