Hope for the Holidays
The holidays are upon us, and I’d like to give some encouragement to those of us whom things may look different. I would have scoffed had you told me two years ago that things would be as they are now. Whether it be due to the pandemic, the loss of a loved one, a blended family (which will likely impact family dynamics), financial strain, or all the above, this season may be triggering for some. Considering that I am a creature of habit, a planner, and have what’s considered a “type A” personality, I’d be lying if I said adjusting has been a breeze. However, I am learning to manage my expectations, practice grace in grief, explore new traditions, and leave space for my feelings.
Managing My Expectations
When tragedy strikes and change occurs, our human nature grasps for some level of familiarity in our routine, emotions, and community. When everything around us is changing, we desperately want something to look and feel familiar…predictable even. I am just now accepting that some things will simply never be the same without my mom. While that is a hard pill to swallow, I find solace in it…because that means I can release that as an expectation for myself and my family. I didn’t realize that I was holding resentment toward my loved ones because they failed to make me feel like I used to around this time when she was here. That wasn’t fair to me or my loved ones. Once I re-evaluated the expectations I had for myself and others, I became lighter and less frustrated. I am still adjusting and learning daily. This is certainly something I wrestle with more often than I’d like to, but I reckon that is a part of my journey with grief.
Practicing Grace in Grief
It’s humbling to recognize that I am not the only one grieving. While I will not minimize the very real reality of my grief, it’s only right that I leave space for my loved ones to do the same. Writing, crying, documenting, and sharing are large parts of my grief process. I realized that my expectation was for others to do the same. I wanted their grief to look like mine, and if it didn’t, I dared to say that they were not grieving. How unfair.
I recently confided in someone that, “I’m losing the family I once knew.” They replied, “You’re learning the family that’s now hurting.” When consumed by everything I had lost, I struggled to give grace for how others were responding to the same loss – especially if their response contradicted my own. I reserve the right to my feelings, but I do not reserve the right to have an unspoken expectation for someone and then be angry when they don’t meet it. One of the most challenging but therapeutic interventions for this has been to open my mouth and communicate how I’m feeling to my loved ones. They cannot know, address, or change what they do not know about.
Exploring New Traditions
As people get older, get married or re-married, move away, or begin their own families, things begin to look different. Learning to “go with the flow” and be open to new experiences has become the story of my life. The only person responsible for my happiness is Brianna Rodgers. Not my dad, my man, my brother, or my friends – me. While those individuals can contribute to my happiness, making them responsible for it would be a burden that they did not sign up for. Now more than ever, I’ve begun to step out of my comfort zone (i.e. making solo plans, trying new things, hosting, prioritizing myself).
Leaving Space for My Emotions
I ache for my mommy and the loss of her physical presence makes me sad, especially around this time of year. No one will guilt me into silencing that pain or glossing it over with a cliché. If I’ve learned nothing else through this, it’s that two things can be true at one time: I can be deeply hurting AND ever-mindful of the Burden-Bearer that is Christ. I can be both tearful and hopeful. I can have joy in sorrow.
For my grieving friends, I am praying for us. I pray that you will leave space for your emotions, but not be consumed by them. I pray that you will find new strength and soar high on wings like eagles. May you run and not grow weary, walk and not faint. May your heart rejoice in the hope that God grants us. May peace be your portion as you brave new traditions with a new outlook. May our guiding and good God comfort you. Amen.
While the holidays may always make us miss our fallen ones EVEN more, I hope that you can find sweet moments of reflection, peace, and hope in this season.