December sneaks in, quickly filling the world with lights, decorations and holiday cheer. Holiday cheer is magical, but when you have a grieving heart, the magic feels less like glittery sparkle and more like someone shining a spotlight on the empty space that you find yourself surrounded by. With the celebratory events and family festivities come the sympathetic “You-Should’s” of the people who find themselves next to grieving hearts.
The holiday “You Should’s”, the unnecessary advice, the tips and to-do’s of bystanders witnessing your pain. The ones who haven’t sat in your seat but want to tell you how to sit in it. The ones who don’t want you to be in pain, so they offer bandaids, and platitudes, and guidance on how to get through the holidays. They mean well but that doesn’t mean that their words sit well in your soul.
They say, “You should decorate for the holidays.” What they don’t know is that grief changes the holidays. Grief decorates with darkness while the rest of the world glistens like the Northern Lights. They don’t realize that no matter how many lights are on the house and how many ornaments are on the tree, there is and will always be something missing.
They say, “You should be around those you love.” What they don’t know is that sometimes it’s hard to be around laughter and fun and excitement. They don’t realize that joy becomes complicated when someone you love is in heaven. They don’t realize that sometimes being surrounded by others makes you feel suffocated instead of comforted, that the noise is just as debilitating as the silence.
They say, “You should create new traditions.” What they don’t know is that it feels like going rogue trying to create new traditions and experiences. It feels like deleting pieces of the past, pieces that still included the one we lost. It feels like abandoning things created and crafted by someone who is no longer here. It feels complicated and awkward.
They say, “You should be grateful for the family still here.” What they don’t know is that I’m immensely grateful for those that remain. Grief and gratitude exist together now. They are cohesive, delicately blended by beautiful love and also a forever absence. Grieving someone who is gone doesn’t diminish or deplete the love and gratitude I feel for those still here. I hold both, always.
They say, “They wouldn’t want you to be sad or miss out on the holidays.” What they don’t know is that I’m not choosing to be sad or lonely or heartbroken. I’m choosing to be authentic and that means acknowledging the emotions, both the easy and the harsh, both the comfortable and the uncomfortable. My hope is that I’m still loved and wanted in my authenticity.
This holiday season what I want others to know is that I’m doing the best I can. I only ask that they trust that truth. That loved ones trust that I know what’s best for my heart and my healing. That loved ones accept my choices, even when it means declining an invitation. That loved ones accept my choices, even when it means showing up broken and messy, not ready to celebrate but ready to witness the celebration. That loved ones can give me grace and patience instead of advice and recommendations.
This holiday season please realize that grieving hearts are dim. Just like one missing bulb can keep the rest of the lights from shining, this heart is missing the bulb that created the light in the first place, which means this holiday will look, shine, and reflect differently. Let me honor the difference.
More than anything, invite and acknowledge both me and my grief because we are one in the same. We cannot be separated. Love me and welcome me however I show up and even when I fail to show up, for I am trying my best.
This holiday season honor the one who is gone and also the way I continue on without them.
A thirty-something 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.