The holiday season is not always a time of candy canes and festive gatherings. For many, it’s a time of remembering and grieving loved ones who are no longer with us.
My 29-year-old son died three years ago, and I’ve yet to decide how I want to celebrate this season of merry making and good cheer. I don’t feel cheerful –yet. Maybe someday, but not today.
That first year, as I approached the beginning of the holiday season, I gave myself permission to set the pace, choosing those events I could deal with and leaving the rest behind. It was my time to heal, and I found it necessary, for once, to think of myself first. I learned to speak up and set my boundaries.
I spent time alone in meditation, and I hiked our mountain road. I took our dog for long walks, read, and tried to be fully present each day, allowing the flow of thoughts to penetrate, but not stick. I cried. I talked to my Spirit Son about how much I missed him. I wallowed a bit in why-did-this-have-to-happen-to-me.
Grieving takes many shapes, and it has many layers. I thought about my life and all my stories that are untrue. I had to let them go and accept what was. As Byron Katie says, “Who would you be without the story?”
So, I asked myself, “Who would I be without the story that the holiday season is about large family gatherings? Who would I be without the story that it isn’t Christmas if one of us is permanently missing? Who would I be without the story of candy canes and good cheer?”
I thought about gratitude. I wondered if I could find at least some little thing to be grateful for. It took longer than I ever would have imagined getting to the place of saying, “Yes, I have a room in my heart today for more than just grief.” I have a daughter to love. I have a husband who adores me. I have friends to share a cup of tea with and I have pottery to keep my hands occupied. I have a home. I have a dog. I have freedom. I have food. I have love. I have so very much to be grateful for. And who would I be without the story? I’d be peaceful and grateful and in love with those people and things that love me.
As I come up to the fourth holiday season without my son, I am still waiting for a new story to unfold; a new way of marking this season of magic and miracles. I am exploring ways of celebrating that are in alignment with who I am now. Every year I inch into this new-story and bit by bit my family is making new memories.
It is taking longer than I would have imagined to become comfortable with this new way of being. But as I walk this path of sorrow, I do so consciously and in choice. Every moment of every day I consciously choose how I want to be.
May you be at peace with where you are in this journey called Life.