It's Christmas, but it doesn't feel like Christmas this year. The unthinkable has happened; the heartbreak can be felt to your very core, and there is this overwhelming sense of hollowness that you can't shake, no matter how hard you try. This is a Christmas filled with grief.
Christmas without the ones we love, Christmas that looks different because our family dynamics have changed, Christmas missing that special piece of your heart can seem like a massive mountain in front of you. The desire to be happy, laughing, and filled with joy is real, but the heaviness and overwhelm of grief can often make it so difficult to find.
So how do we navigate life now that it looks so different? How do we continue to show up for our kids, our families, and most importantly, ourselves? I want to give you a quick fix, that magical pill that can be swallowed, and everything seems right in the world again. A wave of the wand, and suddenly our hearts are full, and the world is a bright, beautiful place where you can feel so much love that it almost hurts. That happily ever after in that perfect fairy tale where all you see is yourself dancing off into the sunset. I really do wish that was something I could provide for each and every grieving heart. The reality is that no one has that magic pill, the fix-it wand, and, to be frank, the happily ever after isn't truly the end of the story. We each travel through this world, and we will all experience loss and grief, we will all lose something or someone, we will all experience heartbreak. The real question is why we are never taught how to cope with it, how to move through it, or what to do with it when it shows up on our very own doorstep. At best, we can draw on others' experiences, learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before us, and make the choice of how we want the rest of our life to look.
First off, I just want to say that I see you. I will never forget that first Christmas when I should have been buying gifts for her, but she wasn't here anymore. I can still feel that longing for her, the "I know better, but feel that jealousy anyway because others aren't grieving like me" feeling. I will never forget waking to that emptiness, the anger, the tears, and love that I so desperately wanted to give but had nowhere to go. So again, I see you. My heart feels for you, my lungs ache to breathe as I reflect back with you. This new season, this new life, this journey that suddenly looks different can feel absolutely terrifying, but it is doable. Ugh, don't you want to toss out a little throat punch to me when I say that? It is doable. I know I personally wanted to distribute throat punches when I heard those words and I was deep in my grief. Yet, I'll say it again, it is doable; you can learn to hold both grief and joy in your heart and learn to live this very different-than-expected life in a beautiful way.
Here we go. These are not the aforementioned quick fixes, yet they can allow you to be authentically you as you navigate Christmas today.
Hold Space - I fully believe in being 100% real. People often tell me that their experience of me is that I am very direct. Some may see that as overwhelming to their senses, but I view that as a griever who learned to speak their truth because it was the only path back to healing. I couldn't pretend she didn't exist. I had to share that my heart was hurting because, yes, I needed some extra love (not just the first year but many years after her death). I needed to hold space for her because even though she wasn't physically here, she was very much still part of my existence. So hold space; it may make others uncomfortable, but that is their journey of growth. Your heart needs to be heard, and you get to be authentically you.
Remember to Breathe - Hello autopilot! We get going through the motions, navigating what we think we need to be doing or what others tell us we need to be doing, and we lose track of ourselves and our body. Take a minute, close your eyes, and check in with yourself. Are you breathing? I mean really breathing, deep stress-relieving, diaphragm-filling breaths? Or are they shallow, quick, anxiety-producing, oxygen-deprived gasps? When the overwhelm kicks in, check your breath. Check in with yourself. Take five minutes and give yourself deep, life-giving breaths and see how you feel.
It's okay to Laugh - "If I laugh, then I'm not honoring her" was the lie I told myself for many years. I'm going to call each and every one of us on this. Laughing doesn't mean I loved or love her any less. Laughing doesn't mean my heart isn't still grieving. Laughing isn't a sign that I don't care. Laughing is me celebrating her life. Laughing is knowing that I'm figuring out that whole grief and joy thing. Laughing is me honoring that I'm forgiven. Laughing can help in healing. It's okay; you have permission. Don't let anyone or yourself take this simplest of joys away from you.
Say Their Name - Hearing it reminds your head (that intellectual side of you that is squashing down all the feels) that they were really here because your heart is screaming for their presence. I heard a beautiful saying: "The soul hides out in the head when it can't handle what's in the heart." Allow yourself to feel. Your heart and head can often be in battle with each other. So when you are trying to justify not saying their name in your head, remember that the heart desperately needs you to say it, needs you to hear it and feel it. The heart needs a place for all that love to go.
Finally, Lean In - Lean into your loved ones still here. Cry on their shoulder. Speak your truth. Vent away. Say, "Catch me; I'm falling," whatever it is for you. We are communal beings. We need each other. We are not meant to do this whole living thing alone. So call your sister, cry on Dad's shoulder, reach out to your bestie, lean in to your mentor, vent to your spiritual leader, use the resources you have. What you're feeling doesn't need to make sense to anyone but you. Others can't fix what you are feeling, but gosh darn it, allow yourself to a safe place to get it out, a place to let it flow. Bottling it all up will only end like a champagne bottle on New Year's Eve; you will blow, feel empty, and all alone. So find that person that listens, loves, and lean in.
While there are so many different ways to take today on, just remember that whatever you're feeling, you're not crazy. Your heart is hurting. You're not broken, and you don't need to be fixed. You're grieving; it's normal and natural. Be kind to yourself today. Love yourself today, whatever that looks like. And most importantly, remember to breathe.
Sending you all the hugs, all the love, and a simple reminder that I see you 💚💚💚