She’s holding a fresh loss, while mine is much more distant, because of this she leans on me for advice from time-to-time. It’s such a delicate honor and responsibility. I know her heart is fragile because years after losing my mother, my heart is still fragile too. Silently I pray for the wisdom and comfort she seeks while she tearfully tells her current ache and asks questions.
We sit side-by-side as she says, “I wish people knew that grief is complicated at the holidays. I wish they knew to be gentle and kind and patient. You’ve lived this longer than me, what do you think? What do you wish people knew about all of this?”
I listen. I think. I wait for the right moment to say…
“Just like you, I wish the world understood the complexities of grief and how they are fueled with greater power and harshness during the holidays.
I wish they knew that even with a smile, I’m hurting and a bit tender.
I wish they knew that even though the room is filled with people and joy and laughter, I’m constantly reminded of the emptiness that it also holds.
I wish they knew that sometimes I say yes to an invite that later becomes unbearable to attend, not because I don’t want to, but because in that moment it simply isn’t the right thing for my healing.
I wish they knew that not all tears signify pain, that some signify love and reminiscence.
I wish they knew that I’m simultaneously grateful for all of the beauty and blessings that remain and also empty from the holes created by an inescapable absence.
I wish they knew that I’m trying and that no matter how much time has passed since her death the holidays will always be void of her magic and beauty, which means that something will always be missing.
I wish they knew a lot of the reasons I do and say and feel like I do, except for them to know means they’ve lived it too– that they’ve experienced grief’s sting and heartbreak. And I don’t want that.
So now, everytime I find myself wishing the world understood grieving hearts, instead I recognize the need to truly understand my own grieving heart. I pay close attention to the things that can change and also the things that cannot.
Instead of wishing others would acknowledge or respect my grief, I advocate for myself and ask for what I need– even when it’s hard and uncomfortable. I speak up and request patience and grace and compassion. I show up to things brave and broken, grateful and grieving, celebrating and mourning, and make sure people know all of that.
I stopped wishing the world knew what grieving hearts needed and instead made sure I knew my own needs and comfort. And one day you will too. But until then, you have me, someone who understands. Someone you don’t need to wish knows, because I do. I truly do.”
We hug because we’re huggers, and we cry because we’re cryers, and we look at each other and smile because we get it. We truly get it.
The holidays are hard for hearts that are grieving.
We’re all holding invisible weight and heartbreak that the holidays seem to illuminate.
Be gentle, friends. Be gentle.
A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.