’Tis the season to be Jolly — except many of us aren’t. The holiday season is also a time of loss and grief. We miss those who won’t be joining us for festivities, those who have passed away and those who have moved away. Those we’ve separated from or divorced.
The furry friends who have crossed from this life to the next. The children who’ve grown, married, and will sit at the holiday tables of in-laws this year. The list goes on. When faced with the pain of sadness and loss in contrast to the cultural myth of the blessings, joy and triumph, the holidays can be unbearable.
Rev. Julia McKay is the lead minister at High Plains Church, Unitarian Universalist. We talked about grief in a COVID-stricken, changing world.
Rev. Julia McKay: It is true that the energy of grief is more present these days. Especially as we have an inordinate number of souls leaving the planet at relatively the same time, it is crucial for us to know what to do with such great sadness. Yet, mourning can be difficult for so many.
We might be coming from good intentions when we find ourselves talking about anything other than the pain; we highlight the joy or beauty in life, focus on the future, invent “a reason” for the suffering, or any number of things. We don’t want to additionally burden the hearts that are already broken.
Yet, grief shut-down doesn’t just go away. Sadness suppressed veers sideways and comes out in difficult ways. I believe that if we had more honoring of grief, we would be harming less. In fact, knowing how to “grieve well” might literally make the difference for our survival.
We need a depth of connection to ourselves and others that may be unknown to us. Expressing grief is a humbling. It creates a vulnerability. And for that reason alone, taking a risk to speak about — and even fully embody — our grief can be one of the most significant points of connection to life.
Others need us to have this capacity. They need our capacity to hold the story — the whole story. To stay present to what is occurring, just as it is, even when it is hard. It might be a story of the tremendous bravery that it took to continue loving, continue striving, and doing all things possible in the face of what ultimately couldn’t be fixed or healed. That kind of story is sad, but true.
Grief is honest and allows the experience of brokenness to become the place of revelation, meaning and connection. By being real with one another we might come to find ourselves in “a family of choice,” creating a kinship and trusting the bonds that we create.
So, find a way to honor what you are grieving. Create a special place where you leave everyday reality for a while. Take the light of a candle with you and wash yourself in it. Chant a little song of comfort. And then, most importantly, take the hand of someone who also needs their story heard and bear witness wholeheartedly. Then you might find the slightest smile spreading across your face at the wondrous discovery of what’s possible when kindness and beauty are present, and all is not lost.
Ever wanted straightforward answers to hard questions? Don’t we all?!
In Good Faith answers questions about spirituality, religion and the things that matter to us as human beings. Dr. Ahriana Platten is a speaker, author and business consultant who holds clergy credentials in several faith traditions.
Send your questions to Ahriana@Ahriana.com.