This is a special time and season of the year, when we are possibly more intentional about focusing our attention on the bounty of our blessings and that first Christmas, when Jesus - Immanuel, "God with us," came into the world to save, seal and sanctify us.
The change in the season here in Northern Colorado encourages (and somewhat forces) us to slow down our pace and do things differently. For me personally, I find this season to be calming and restful, and I enjoy the changes that winter brings into our home and life. For some, however, the changes can bring a sense of melancholy and even depression.
As it "begins to look a lot like Christmas," with the traditions that once brought joy and celebration, this can be a somewhat awkward and challenging time - especially for those who are living with pain, sorrow and loss. All that we have looked forward to in the past; the countdown of Advent; Christmas trees, cards, lights, decorations, shopping, gatherings with friends and family, gift-giving and the 24-7 Christmas carols, holiday tunes, TV shows and movies may cause undue stress and intensify our sense of loss.
One of my closest friends recently suffered the loss of her husband. As we were talking on the phone this week, I asked her how she was physically feeling, and she said that she felt detached from all that is physical and material, that she is simply drifting along, and she wonders how long she will feel this way.
As we worked through a portion of her grief together, she also shared that she realizes she must take some time to settle into her "new normal," a term that mourners often use to express their understanding that what was once comfortable and normal is now changed. She is wise and fortunate to have come to terms with this reality so soon in her grieving - she is changed, her life is changed, and it will take her, as it is taking us, time and attention to creating our "new normal."
The pace and pressure to prepare for the Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions and celebrations can be overwhelming.
As I am personally preparing my heart and home for the holidays, I am mindful of all who may be approaching the season with apprehension and that feeling of "simply drifting along" while others are celebrating.
Here are a few suggestions from my personal experiences that I hope will be encouraging and helpful to you . . .
*Create a space in your heart and home for gratitude and the Advent of Christmas. The spirit of this holy season is somewhat mysterious -filled with wonder and expectation for those with a heart graced with the hope and faith in God. Create and protect that space in our hearst for the One who is at the heart of this special Season.
*Let go of the expectations about what this Season has been or has to be. Recognize and accept that your sense of expectations may be tainted with some sense of apprehension about what you will do and how you will do it. Allow yourself to have a holiday season that is your own, not what you or someone else thinks it has to be."
*Decorate in a new way. Because of the sorrow connected to our loss, we can be tempted to just skip all the traditions that once brought so much joy. Most holiday traditions are expressions of love and faith that may be tied to experiences or objects that we shared with the one(s) we are missing. It is important to keep traditions alive, but allow for change. You don't have to have elaborate, complicated decorations - a few simple significant symbols of the season are enough to honor the birth of Christ and your loved one(s).
*Connect with others who are hurting. Remember, there are other people who are hurting, lonely and grieving, too. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give is the gift of your presence, compassion and concern to another person. As the saying goes "it is better to give than to receive" and the gift of giving of your time, comfort and compassion to someone who is hurting is surely the greatest gift of all.
*Find comfort and strength in the spiritual truths of the Season. As we consider and express our gratitude and honor Advent, reflect on what is most meaningful to you and to your family, look for opportunities to be connected with others you share your hope and faith. You may not be able to transcend your grief, but you can become more mindful of the true "reason for the season" with renewed gratitude and thanksgiving for the light and everlasting life that came into the world through Jesus Christ.
When we have lost someone we love, special traditions and celebrations can be painful reminders of the loss that we are feeling. Revisiting cherished traditions and celebrations can bring a new sense of meaning to this Season of blessings, but only if we are intentional about focusing on what we have rather than what we have not.
With Love and Blessings Always,
Angie - "a mom like you"