One Person’s Celebration is Another’s Challenge

Almost 10 years ago my oldest brother passed away. As you can imagine, our family was devastated. For anyone who has experienced substantial loss, you know very well that you never grieve the same way again. I tell clients its like muscle memory; once you grow into a particular space, the next time the demand comes, your emotional body knows exactly how far it can go. And then goes there.

I remember very clearly the last Christmas my brother was here. He died of cancer, so by the holidays he was bedridden and could no longer leave his home. Our family plays a dice game to exchange gifts on Christmas, so to include my brother we all packed into vehicles and headed to his house so he could be a part of it. We all knew what we were doing; we were creating a memory we would have forever. We were all aware it would be the last Christmas as a complete family. It was the proverbial elephant in the room as we shook dice, stole gifts back and forth, talked and laughed and worked really, really hard to pretend we were genuinely having fun, while inside, our hearts broke. Lots of us cried on our way back to my parent’s house afterward. A month later, he passed away.

That last Christmas is not only locked in my memory but in my body. I grieve the holidays as equally as I enjoy them. I truly love Christmas – time with family, our kids, friends, the food, making time to just be together. Under all that festive, I cry inside. My body has never forgotten that last Christmas with him, nor do I believe it will ever. What I’ve come to realize is that many people are grieving inside during the holidays, struggling silently, not wanting to burden others, or thinking that other people just won’t understand.

I sat with a client last week, just days before he was leaving to head back home, where he was raised, to be with his family of origin. He literally looked sick as he talked about them, and his experience growing up. The trauma, the disfunction, the abuse, and still this feeling that he needed to go and see them once a year as a way of trying to put the past behind him.

For some it’s the challenges of their family of origin, for others it the grief of losing someone special, for another it may be the challenges of affording the kind of holiday they think is expected of them and what they want to provide for their loved ones. For some, this is a really difficult time of year.

There are two important things to remember. First, many believe they’re not letting their insides affect their outsides. As to say, they think they’re hiding their struggle and no one notices. And second, don’t mean to be Scrooges, there are just some moments that for no apparent reason, suddenly, it’s really hard and we’re doing our best to keep on keepin’ on.

We really don’t know other people’s struggles. I’ve seen so many people the last couple of weeks in tears because they say “this year just isn’t the same”, or “every year I go through this”. Let’s hold each other in compassion, let’s really practice patience. We have no idea what hurt or challenge someone is enduring. We know our own experience and assume everyone should be as excited as we are for the holidays. Some are not. Put on love, compassion, patience, understanding, and give each other the greatest gift of all, acceptance. Acceptance without knowing the details, without getting the whole family story, financial story, grief story, or whatever it is that may be weighing on someone’s heart.

The new year is coming, the holidays will soon be over, and we’ll all get back to normal, whatever that is. Let’s just try to remember this time of year isn’t the same for everyone.

Blessings Galore, Anne

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