The holidays are a time of immense celebration and excitement for most. The light displays and the decorated windows encourage us to be in good cheer as we bring in the Christmas season. But, for many people, the holidays hurt. They may be a painful reminder of loss and grief. Their hearts may be looking for ways to feel the depth of their pain in a world that seems to have continued on without them.
Grief is an incredibly personal process that doesn’t stop for the holidays. Whether we are grieving or walking alongside someone who is grieving, may we remember that those feelings are important and that it’s okay to be hurting this holiday. May we hold each other close as we walk through the painful seasons. And, may we look for the glimmers of hope in our daily lives that show that the light will return to us in time.
the ache lives.
Memories of you
like an old wound,
never fully healed.
Grief is heart-shattering and all-consuming, and in time, it settles into a deep ache. It’s still there, and the holidays can bring up so many memories—memories that remind us of that loved one but also of the hurt we feel in their absence. Whether you’re in the early stages of grief or the phase of deep aching, please don’t feel like you have to hide these feelings during the holidays. Confide in a friend or a loved one. Find a support group or a counselor. There are people who can walk alongside you in your grief. You don’t have to bear it alone.
This is the love
that you couldn’t take with you
It has been left to collect
in the pit of my chest
Too much for one body to keep
or carry alone
It weighs on me
that it is given a new name entirely
Feelings of loss are heavy on the broken-hearted, and we often are left to mourn the love that is left behind. The love was beautiful, and it is still beautiful, but it is different now. Take the time you need this holiday to allow yourself to reflect on it. You may need to skip some of the holiday traditions this year that feel too painful, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always need to do that. Be gentle with yourself as you’re learning to navigate your healing.
After the Fire
You ever think you could cry so hard
that there’d be nothing left in you, like
how the wind shakes a tree in a storm
until every part of it is run through with
wind? I live in the low parts now, most
days a little hazy with fever and waiting
for the water to stop shivering out of the
body. Funny thing about grief, its hold
is so bright and determined like a flame,
like something almost worth living for.
I found this piece so deeply moving and poignant. The imagery is a perfect representation of the way grief shakes us to our core, a whole-body experience of loss and transition. But, the last part of this poem reminds us to hold onto hope: the grief sweeps through us with such determination because it is necessary and vital. It hurts and it takes from us, but it also leads us back to the light.
Instructions on Not Giving Up
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to a strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
This poem was the perfect contrast to “After the Fire” because it is a continuation of its imagery and how it relates to grief. The green leaves return, and I especially love the line, “growing over whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.” While many celebrate the holidays, grief comes through like a harsh winter. But, the green leaves and the warmth will return, slowly, as the seasons change in your heart.
If you are grieving this holiday season, please know that you are seen. Please allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. It’s okay, and it’s necessary. Your feelings during this time are so valid. I hope that these poems can serve as a little glimmer of light in your healing process.