For many, the Christmas season is the most wonderful time of the year. It is a time of fellowship with loved ones. Magic seemingly floats through the air. Hot cocoa tastes a little bit sweeter. Everyone seems to be their happiest. However, it must not be forgotten that the Christmas season is a time of mourning for those who have lost loved ones. This special time often agitates wounds that individuals have reluctantly sewn shut. What used to be a warm holiday is now noticeably colder. The tree seems thinner; the once lovely branches stretch out like bony fingers. The colorful lights fail to blot out the melancholy. The night seems more silent.
Reminiscing on memories while hanging sentimental ornaments can be overwhelming; it brings tears of joy and sadness alike to the cheeks of mourners. Seasonal depression weighs heavily on those with painted-on smiles; those who yearn for one more holiday with their parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, spouses or children; those who hang fewer stockings and wrap fewer presents. Like snow, loneliness blankets the hearts of silent sufferers.
Santa Claus cannot bring loved ones back on a sleigh. He cannot place comfort under the tree, tied up in a bow. Oh, the many letters that would be sent to the North Pole if it was so simple. It is difficult to look forward to Christmas after loss, but it can still be special even when the visions of sugar plums have long danced away.
It is human instinct to try to ignore grief, especially during a time when everyone is supposed to be happy, but ignoring grief is actually counterintuitive. Grief is not sadness. Grief is an expression of love. To lean into grief, rather than away from it, is to feel that love. To lean into grief during the holidays, when a loved one is no longer physically present, seems impossible. However, it is needed to feel Christmas magic once again.
Christmas magic does not come from the decorations lining the streets. It does not come from a red-nosed reindeer or a jolly old man. Christmas magic is the memory of your mom baking an orange slice cake. Christmas magic is your dad teaching you how to ride your very first bike on Christmas morning. Christmas magic is the lingering aroma of grandpa’s pipe or your grandma’s favorite holiday song playing on the radio. The magic does not disappear after death; it is always available to be felt again.
Pushing down feelings inevitably exacerbates emotional pain. Invite your grief into your home this Christmas. Feel the deep love that is just underneath the surface of hurt, and perhaps Christmas magic, and grief, too, can have a different meaning this holiday season.
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