Ah, the holidays. What a wonderful time of Christmas cheer and glee. Unless, of course, your life has been completely derailed and everything you thought you'd see in your future has now disappeared and looks nothing like what you thought it would.
In fact, it looks like nothing at all. It feels like nothing at all. It is numb.
What is Christmas without the people you're most grateful for? What is Christmas when you go through a serious break-up, a divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health? The loss of an eagerly-awaited child to enter this world whose time only lasted hours before transitioning into the afterlife? Things that don't make sense and situations that don't have answers.
I was recently interviewed on a podcast about the loss of my brother. Though it is extremely hard to talk about, I know that it needs to be talked about. The holidays bring happiness and joy, but they also bring the pressure to be happy and feel joy when all you feel is numb.
It. Just. Doesn't. Feel. Like. Christmas.
"Emmer," my dad said while driving on snowy, icy roads towards Minneapolis yesterday to help me look for a new vehicle, "Why don't you put one of those CD's in you made for me back in college?"
Several times a year while I was away at college, I made my father CDs with music from the 50s and 60s with a little bit of modern music mixed in. I open up the center console and flip through the CDs with names like "Fatha G's Jams", "Dad's Playlist #7," and "Trip G Beats." I picked Playlist #7, and Carrie Underwood begins to tell the story about that sweet little beautiful wonderful perfect All American girl.
I looked out the window at the frost-covered trees and felt just one moment of peace. How a person can be so simple I am not sure, so I asked how he stays so calm. "I guess it just comes with age," he said.
Everyone deals with loss differently, and I'm just gonna say it's okay to feel however you feel. My dad deals with grief differently from my mother or my sisters. We all process in our own way. I tend to go inward and remove myself from social situations. My circle becomes very, very small.
As we move into the Holidays, it is the season of the highest risk for those struggling mentally. Because not only are they struggling, but they also feel the pressure to not be struggling. Whether it's due to a life or circumstance or mental health, it's okay to feel exactly how you feel. Nobody should have to put on a face for their family and friends. You get to be as you are.
I'd like to say I have a remedy for this, but sometimes you just have to trust that as life knocks the wind out of you sometimes, there will be other years, or times, where it so delicately and beautifully fills you. And the greatest lesson we can learn in trials is that joy can exist in the middle of all the pain and trauma too, they can co-exist together. Even if this year brings extreme pain and unbearable loss, I wish you the greatest, deepest love that heals the most hurting parts of ourselves and makes us stronger, more resilient, better communicators, and lovers who just don't give up on those whom they love.
To anyone supporting others that are experiencing the Holidays with unexpected pain and loss: just be there.
You don't need to say the "right thing" because nothing you can say will make their pain go away, but the most powerful thing you can do is just listen. And be there.
To anyone experiencing the Holidays with unexpected pain and loss: this is your warrior path. This pain is a portal to new levels of life, understanding of spirituality, and the road that is made for only you to walk. Wear the stages of grief like a cloak of honor, because you have accomplished the greatest thing we can in this life-- you have loved.
You are not alone.