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Trying to reason with the season

PenguinsWhat is up with this?  It cannot be!  There is no way this is possible.  How is it that I can be excited and in anticipation of a joyous holiday season?  Didn’t I take a vow after Ashley died that I would never again celebrate occasions such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and any other days of the year when banks are closed?  

Shouldn’t I be experiencing some type of guilt?  These are questions I asked myself yesterday as I began thinking about the fast approaching holiday season is nearly upon us.  How on earth did I get “here” from “there”?  It truly feels like a new day for me, the holidays though still a little bitter-sweet have once again become something I treasure.  It has taken me 13 years to learn that Ashley will be right here in my heart and on my mind encouraging me to delight in all of it.    

Maybe I enjoy it so much now because for so many years, this holiday season brought only pain and sorrow, a sad reminder of all that I lost.  Maybe I enjoy it so much now because it took all these years to really accept that Ashley would want me to celebrate the holidays.  Maybe I enjoy it so much now because after 13 years I finally get to experience what my dear friend, the late Darcie Sims called “the other side of grief.” 

I am always a little hesitant when I talk about finding joy again.  My good friend and creator of The Birdhouse Project, Kris Munsch, describes it so well when he says “I am always tempted to use a disclaimer when I talk about the gifts of grief for fear it may appear insensitive to those hurting individuals who can’t imagine ever finding joy again.”  While I know it is my responsibility to share hope and healing...  I also have great respect for those of you are hurting deeply and are dreading so much the upcoming holidays. So, the purpose of this blog isn’t to polarize those of us who “can” celebrate the holidays from those of us who “can’t”, but rather to offer up the hope that just because you can’t celebrate the holidays now, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to celebrate them again at some point in the future.

Looking back I can see that every difficult step on the journey was necessary, I know that none of those “dark” holiday seasons of my recent past were spent in vain.  It took me going through the agony of those difficult years to get here today.  I honestly feel that the only reason I can experience deep joy today is because I experienced the deep pain of all of those yesterdays.

My prayer is that each of you find what you need this holiday season.  For some, it may be the strength to simply endure, for others it may mean finding comfort and joy in family and friends.  Wherever you may be on your grief journey, may the light of love for our children, grandchildren, siblings and loved ones shine brightly.