A Holiday Offering

A member of the Conscious Weddings E-Course linked to this post on the forum, so I thought I would offer it here as well as a source of context and comfort during this holiday season.

***

Since life isn’t a Hallmark card or a Hollywood movie, the holidays are often a time when fantasies and expectations for how things “should” be jut up against how things actually are. And since the winter holidays also coincide with the shift in the Earth’s tilt as evidenced by the Winter Solstice, it’s also a time of transition. We’re transitioning from darkness to light and simultaneously celebrating – or not celebrating – Hannukah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. The intersection of these events often creates an emotionally challenging time.

As transitions are, by definition, times of change, with each transition the loss and memories from the past filter up to consciousness. Loss triggers old losses and transitions trigger past transitions. You might be wrapping Christmas presents and feel a pang of loss about a Christmas past spent with an ex-girlfriend or with friends in another city. The natural response to these pangs is to think, “Oh, I wonder if I really want to move back to that other city or get back together with the ex.” Loss doesn’t require any action other than breathing into its presence. The emptiness of loss is filled with inhales and the allowance of grief. Embedded in the loss might be another layer of tears that need to come out. Let them out. Remind yourself not to fear the grief and attach false meaning to it. Like a crying child, it doesn’t need judgements or justifications; it only needs the comfort of your arms.

One of the mental blocks that prevents the natural emotions triggered around holidays and solstices from coming through is the injunction against feeling anything less than joy during this time. Like getting married and becoming a parent, our culture spreads the belief that you’re supposed to plaster a smile across your face right now and squeeze your emotional body to match the tenor of a greeting card. When you’re suffering under the overlay of “shoulds” and “supposed tos” it’s almost impossible to allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. For many, the pressure to be happy is so extreme that it creates the opposite experience: misery.

What’s interesting is that while many people rationally understand the pressure and ensuing misery of the holidays, it’s still extremely difficult to extricate yourself from the cultural expectation of joy. Again, as with every other life transition, we tell people to feel happy at the exact time when they’re naturally feeling grief, loss, loneliness, vulnerability, and depression. It’s crazy-making, to say the least. And it’s the reason why I’m so committed to doing this work and continuing my attempt to raise consciousness about life’s transitions, from holidays to birthdays, from birth to death and every transition in between.

Here’s my offering to you: if at all possible, lift the expectation and allow yourself to BE however you need to be and feel however you need to feel. If you’re lonely, breathe into the loneliness. If a memory of your deceased father appears, acknowledge the memory, and instead of seeing it as something to avoid, view it as a gift in that it brings you into closer contact with a departed loved one. Let yourself cry if you need to cry and crawl under the covers if that’s what’s asked. There are no should or supposed tos; there’s only what is.

3 comments to A Holiday Offering

  • Ashley

    thank you Sheryl for this! i visited your blog today in hopes to read something to help me move into a deeper space that i can feel my body resisting, and sure enough, these words remind me that, yes, it is okay to breath into grief that lately has been masquerading as anger. the days leading up to and through the transition of the holidays are such a gift. as you said… darkness into light 🙂

  • Yes, Ashley, breathe into the grief! Expect it, allow for it, remind yourself that there’s nothing to be scared of and everything to be learned. Feelings are just feelings and you have all of the tools and resources that will allow you to be with the feelings and guide yourself through the darkness and into the light – just as you have done this year and I have no doubt you will do with each transition in your life, whether it’s moving, having a baby, changing careers, or winter.

  • Ashley

    thank you a million times over. i know the moment i start to resist, is the moment when the feelings get scary. but when i can remind myself that they are just feelings, as you suggest, softness enters and the grief doesn’t look so scary, rather historic and old that needs to be released so i can move into the new year. also, without grief there cannot be joy, as you have shared with me… so, i’m just going to try and let it flow!