When the Holidays Look Different this Year...
This will be the second year we celebrate Thanksgiving without my brother. Last year at this time, my life looked really different. Despite the loss of my brother, I was able to enjoy very precious holiday time. This year, all the circumstances are different. As a result, the holidays look different too. Not bad, but yes, different. There are loved ones that won’t share a turkey with me this year. And, to be honest, that sucks. And I feel it.
Although this is the second holiday season we’ve approached as a family without my brother, people still lovingly let me know that they are praying for us through the holidays. No matter how many years pass, you still feel the absence of the people you love. For some of you reading, like me, the arrival of the Holidays may bring joy along with a sting. Maybe just the sting. So how do you get through it?
Acceptance is huge. Let yourself feel everything. This may seem like terrible advice to some, but it really is true. Give honor and place to your memories of the past. Remember your loved ones. Remember the conversations around the table. Remember the way it felt to be with them, the laughs they gave and the smiles they brought. Allow yourself to cry for however long is necessary. Invite God into the most tender and painful places. But make a choice to live also.
What I mean by this is you have to allow the sadness, but you also have to allow joy in. Actually, in all reality, you don’t have to, but I recommend it! Allow yourself to enjoy new traditions and new faces. Be present with the people you do get to share the table with. Create new memories.
Don’t stop. Don’t get stuck. Don’t set up a tent in the memories and determine to be a Grinch through every holiday that approaches. It won’t change anything and it won’t help you feel better. There is pain in this life. It is hard and the Holidays can certainly magnify it. But there is also so much joy. Sorrow and joy are not independent of each other. They both run through every season of our lives. Sure, some seasons may have more sorrow than others and maybe some have more joy than sorrow. But if we look closely, we can see that traces of joy and sorrow are always present. But the choice is ours as to what we choose to focus on. We can choose to turn our backs on joy, but it remains available to us. We can choose to sit in a dark room or we can flip the switch and turn on the light.
So this year if the holidays look different, choose to remember. Choose to reflect. Choose to feel. But above all choose to live. No matter what we leave behind, the new awaits. New adventures, new smiles, new laughter, new warmth, new surprises and heavenly kisses from papa. Maybe some of the “happy” was stolen from your Holidays, but if you look to Jesus, nothing or no one will ever be able to steal away the joy.
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10)