By Dr. BethAnne Kapansky Wright
For some of us, the holiday season comes wrapped with ribbons of grief.
We are the ones who’ve known some kind of loss, whose magnitude is powerful enough that the ripple effects become extra potent on a time focused on celebration. And as such the experience of grief becomes part and parcel to navigating a month tinged with family, friends, and festivity.
This will be my second December without my brother and having just waded through the waters of Thanksgiving, I find myself staring at December with a mixed heart. I have a sense of childlike wonder, which loves colorful strings of lights and fully embraces any excuse to have extra cookies.
Gratitude for another year of life. Reflection on what lessons and growth transpired this past year. Anticipation and resolution of what 2018 will bring. Sadness that each year that passes is another without my brother. Comfort from a sense of his spirit drifting over all of the above, telling me everything will be all right. And grief is the string that twines itself around all of these feelings and experiences making everything take on a vintage filter of nostalgia.
Grief is giving me a visceral appreciation for the precious and brief quality of life, along with a deep awareness of the amount of changes we experience in our journeys as humans. Collect enough years under your belt, and you begin to amass quite a collection of moments that shape, change, rearrange and redirect your heart path. Once those experiences have become part of you, they shift the tints and shades of your life palette. Multiple forms of loss will inevitably become one of the biggest palette changers.
Many of us are entering this season with a quiet sense of self-knowledge that sadness will be mixed with some of the beautiful memories we are about to create. Tears may slip at inopportune moments. We may think of easier yesterdays where our time lines looked a bit different, and our life story was unfolding on a different vein. We may have an awareness that there are now experiences that color our lens on life, which didn’t exist on past holidays.
There are soft bittersweet tones of cool, gray blues woven through my life that didn’t once exist. Those tones sing and cry water songs about fluidity, change, and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. They wash over and into everything I do, a tide of soft teals gently eroding the lines of my life, until everything becomes intertwined and connected: it is impossible for me to do anything without thinking of my brother—I carry him inside of me.
Sadness doesn’t have to be bad. Neither does grief.
It is our attachment to these feelings that often places a judgment on them, not the feelings themselves. Grief simply honors the journey we take in this place and affirms the finite nature of this life. It holds the potential to deepen our relationship with our self and our perspective on life. It is a relief to make space for it and simply accept it as a companion who will visit us from time to time.
And due to the nature of the holiday season with its focus of family, connection, and love; many of us will be visited by this companion, which doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Just something that we allow ourselves to fully acknowledge. Self-compassion becomes key. Honoring our experiences of loss becomes a sacred act only we can perform, allowing grief a place at the table a holy necessity.
Whatever the amount of scarring, whatever the fade—whether it happened years ago or just recently in a more proximate season—all experiences of grief are real and valid, and they deserve for us to treat them with the utmost care as we navigate this season. We say yes to what feels right and no to what doesn’t. We come up with our own ceremonies and rituals that honor whatever loss we carry. We celebrate or we don’t celebrate, however we see fit, however need be, wherever we are at.
My cool blue tones will wind themselves around the lights and brights and merry of the season, not diminishing them or taking away from them, but simply taking their rightful place as a band of color that affirms how much I miss my brother and still ache from loss.
Even as they heighten my own sense of holiness for the gift of this life, wrapping themselves around the whole in sacred circles of love.
Dr. BethAnne Kapansky Wright is a writer, artist, psychologist and intuitive living on the beautiful island of Kauai. She is the author of the grief book, Lamentations of the Sea: 111 passages on grief, love, loss and letting go, as well as several books of poetry. She is currently working on Lamentation’s sequel, Revelations of the Light, along with writing and illustrating a children’s book with her fur kids as muse. In her free time she can be found chasing rainbows, running red dirt and jungle trails, listening to the ocean, and sweating at a barre or on a yoga mat. You can find her on her Facebook page Island Songs or on her personal site.
Editor: Dana Gornall