Do you feel a mix of emotions this time of year? Joy, happiness, connection - as well as grief, sadness, and loneliness?
We see commercials, Instagram & Facebook feeds full of everyone celebrating, being 'joyful'. Yet if this isn't our current reality, it can intensify the grief that is either prominent - or was laying dormant, unexpressed.
Grief illuminates the divide between our current reality to what once was, or what never was. It can be hard to talk about, because it doesn't feel very welcome in a time of 'good cheer' and 'holiday spirit'.
Yet death, divorce, heartache, illness, absence, and the wounds of abandonment (both emotional and physical) can bubble to the surface for nearly every single one of us this time of year.
Aging is its own form of grief - one that we all wrestle with (including the grief of babies becoming children, becoming teenagers, becoming adults... there is always grief with change, as welcome as it also is).
When there isn't space to allow these feelings, it makes perfect sense why our impulse is to suppress - to cover them up, push them down, accommodating our social expectation to uphold JOY.
Yet we aren't built to suppress our emotions. However skilled we may be at it, we cannot restrain some sort of reaction. It shows up somewhere. In the body, always - and also in our spending...
This time of year, when by necessity we are spending on 'all the things', we are challenged every day to find our footing. We see a commercial (or 6 million) of a happy family sitting around a fire. Days later we may find ourselves making a large purchase that promises all kinds of happy smiles... This connection is mostly unconscious, sometimes conscious.
We want to feel better. We want it to all be ok. This is especially true if we have children who are navigating their own grief...
We cannot underestimate the messages we receive culturally - throughout our lives - that spending money on 'X' will make everything 'better'. This becomes the ready solution our brain delivers... the fix for all that feels broken.
But this remedy - in the context of emotional release - is a lie, afalsehood that we are sold - and even if we logically reject it, unconsciously we may still act from its impulse.
What truly helps is being comforted by another - being allowed to have big feelings, letting them run their course and loosen their hold on us.
Emotional spending can certainly provide relief - and it isn't wrong or bad! It just isn't going to reach the root of the pain - and it may inadvertently make it worse, with deeper shame and guilt.
My intention is never to deepen that - only to be a space that is safe to acknowledge the full range, to allow the pain right along with the joy. Understanding it - nurturing ourselves through it - is the most healing way forward. [See below for a few thoughts...]
If you are experiencing emotional intensity this time of year - know you are not alone. Find places where your emotional range is welcome. Find comfort in what gives you comfort - and when you are ready, seek the most nurturing support you can to allow the healing of the deeper grief.
With tremendous compassion for all that we collectively experience - the full range of human emotions are always welcome in this space...
A Few Steps to Take if You are Navigating Grief this Holiday Season
Seeking support, asking for what we need takes courage - it is vulnerable, and may feel unfamiliar. Yet it is powerful and beautiful to do so.
Take good care of yourself, always.
Photo By Helena Hertz