Behind the veneer of holiday hustle and bustle, for some of us there runs a secret river of sorrow. The cultural curtain of joy and good cheer can mask the most prominent cause of December tears: relationships.
The holidays are advertised as jolly and bright and in many ways, and for many people they are just that. It is a season of celebration – full of gifts, parties, songs of memory and joy. For others “getting through the month” is priority. December holidays are focused on family, friends and when you experience a empty place in your life, it can be painful to celebrate with the joy the holidays seem to evoke.
As the sleigh bells start to jingle, we sense the cold reality of loss. Loved ones are far away, physically or emotionally. We have broken relationships and the distance that death brings. During the rest of the year we can acknowledge and perhaps even manage the difficult emotions around our losses, but the holidays can leave us feeling alone in our grief because everything in our culture seems to scream “be cheerful!”
If the holidays are indeed about family, friends and love, then these days are not only about feeling joy. They are about experiencing the fullness of love, which includes a range of emotions. We can feel as if what we are experiencing is in direct opposition to societal expectations when loss, grief and sadness are as much a part of the human experience as joy, happiness and good cheer.
Amidst the tinsel, ribbons and bows we see around us, let us see each other in our fullness. Together, whether in joy or sadness, we represent the entire spectrum of relationship: the challenges and celebrations, smiles and tears.
Notice the expectations you sense. Embracing where you are, whether painful or joy-filled (or both) is purposeful and healing, albeit often uncomfortable work. Our awareness of ourself and others deepens in our connectedness. It becomes the redemptive work of December.