Loss, Love, and Community at the Holidays

Abstract painting loosely resembling a fall landscape
Peace, 2014. Private Collection; prints available.

With the holiday season well underway, I’ve been thinking a lot about family and community.  I had the pleasure of spending Thanksgiving with family, as I’ve always been lucky enough to do.  While I was so grateful to be surrounded by my mom, aunt, cousins, and husband, the absence of my father and uncle were palpable — it was our first Thanksgiving without them.  Spending these last few days at my parents’ house, it seems as though everywhere I look, I’m reminded of my dad.  It’s as if I can still see him sitting in his favorite chair and hear exactly what he would say in response to just about every situation.

I know I’m not alone in experiencing both joy and loss this time of year.  To those who have not yet had to endure this feeling, I hope you’ll do your best to stay present with your loved ones and appreciate every moment you have with them.  (Take pictures and videos.  I’m so glad to be able to look back at photos of my dad and reminisce on happy times.)  If you have a friend or family member who has recently lost someone close to them, please keep them in your thoughts and reach out to them.  Everyone grieves differently, but even those who need some time alone to process their feelings will surely appreciate hearing from you and knowing that you care.  And while I’m sure time makes these things easier, please don’t assume that all is well simply because a few months or years have passed.  Although my own father’s death still feels very recent, I’ve learned from loved ones that some losses leave holes that can never be filled, and grief can reappear at unexpected times, even decades later.

I’ll be a little more than seven months pregnant this Christmas, and I’m preparing to spend the holiday at my home in Tennessee rather than traveling to my parents’ house.  I know it will be a tough holiday, so I’m already thinking about ways to make it more enjoyable.  I hope to surround myself with whatever friends are in town and focus my energies on others, perhaps by volunteering or looking for ways to make my friends’ holidays a little brighter.  I would love to hear your suggestions for filling the holidays with warmth, joy, and love when you have to spend them way from your family.  

I’m wishing you all a happy holiday season, whatever and however you may celebrate.  May you be surrounded with love and feelings of peace.

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