The idyllic expectations of the holidays permeates our culture this time of year as we have celebrated Thanksgiving and move into the Christmas season. Commercials depict families gathered around tables brimming with perfectly prepared foods. Our inboxes, mailboxes, and device notifications are full of ideas about what gift will bring our loved ones happiness. Lights, bells, songs, and good will remind us of what it means to be in community together. Who can argue with “It’s the most wonderful time of the year?”
What is missing from this idyllic picture is the reality that many are facing as we enter into the holiday season with loved ones missing. Whether the loss was recent, due to the pandemic, or in the past, our loved ones who have passed on leave an empty space at the table and there is no denying its significance. We often fail to recognize the psychological presence that these loved ones have in our lives and the impact that those emotions will bring during this season when we celebrate family. Sometimes the loss isn’t due to a death, but a break in relationships. These losses are felt equally and repeatedly as the sting of brokenness over and over again fills our hearts with fresh hurt.
It’s important that we take time to recognize the loss and hurt in our lives. Many times, we may feel as though we need to “sweep it under the rug” to create the idyllic pictures our culture tells us is expected. However, this tends to further isolate us as we feel alone in our pain while putting on a brave face. What would happen if instead of ignoring the pain, we found constructive ways to embrace it? Can we acknowledge the psychological presence that exists in our memories and hearts as we remember our loved ones?
Finding balance between acknowledging the loss while embracing the present can be challenging, but it can also be healthy. Small gestures that acknowledge the loss give family members an opportunity to unite and offer empathy. It lets us know that we aren’t alone in our hurt and that others are feeling the brokenness we feel inside as well. It opens the door for meaningful conversation, healing tears, and community within our own families. Some family members may need an extra hand to navigate the loss. It’s easy to want to hide away and skip the holiday season all together. A gentle word and helping hand can enable a loved one to navigate a difficult season that feels impossible otherwise. Afterall, healing and hope are two of the reasons we celebrate this season to begin with.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Wishing you God’s peace and comfort.
Mrs. Danae Amstutz
Shalom's School Counselor