The last couple of months of each year can be a whirlwind of joyous reunions with family and friends, tables laden with feasts fit for the most discerning foodie, heartfelt toasts, well wishes and the always delightful laughter of children. We can get caught up and distracted by the planning, cooking, shopping, wrapping and decorating, we may forget some in our orbits are not facing this time of year with the same anticipation but with far less joy than we’d hope for them.
A few may be facing their first holiday season as empty nesters; for others, it might be the first or a series of holidays away from family and friends. The first round of holidays after a divorce takes some adjustment, as does the first holiday we muddle through without someone we love dearly. For many folks, the degree of commercialism overshadows their fondest memories of childhood and simpler times. Some may be experiencing the financial stress of job loss.
These situations can be dynamic and can change year to year, giving us something to look forward to and plan for. But some changes are permanent and we may be faced with a “new normal.” Regardless, we grieve the losses we face in our lives.
This was written by Gwen Flowers, it feels to me like an apt description and explanation.
I had my own notion of grief
I thought it was a sad time
That followed the death of someone you love,
And you had to push through it
To get to the other side.
But I’m learning there is no other side,
There is no pushing through
There is absorption
And grief is not something you complete
But rather you endure
Grief is not a task to finish
And move on.
But an element of yourself-
An alteration of your being,
A new way of seeing,
A new definition of self.
Long-enduring family traditions we hold close and hope to pass on can bring comfort and continuity; they can also tie us to our past, people, places and things that may not help us to flourish and grow. Happily, joyfully, we get to choose what we hold onto and what we let go of. A celebration should be free of hard lines and sharp corners.
None of us know how others process these changes and losses in life. We don’t all walk the same path, hike the same trail or hear and feel the same messages in songs and stories even though we all walk, hear, see and feel. Loss and grief are intensely personal; the feelings ebb and flow. There is no right or wrong way; we all write our own narrative, tell our own stories, paint our own pictures and sing our own songs.
So as we begin a brand new year and a brand new decade it feels like a perfect time to begin a new way of seeing, being and describing oneself. It’s time for a new calendar with pictures that bring smiles, instead of the stodgy old desk calendar. A new coat of paint in a beautiful color over the worn and chipped coat. A new place for the sofa, chair or table; not the same arrangement just because it works. A bright new notebook full of blank pages to write down dreams, draw doodles, jot recipes, and set goals. Make notes of places to visit instead of the same grocery and to-do lists scribbled on the back of an envelope.
As we begin this new decade – in a world full of uncertainty and turmoil, as bereft of kindness, compassion and humor as it seems to be at first glance – I wish for all of us a decade of new beginnings, a new way of seeing ourselves and defining what we want to be. I look forward to seeing and hearing from those in my orbit.