There’s a heaviness to this season like we haven’t experienced before. I feel the weight of it as I FaceTime with my parents with no idea when I’ll safely be able to go visit them. I feel it with every canceled get together and every “I miss you” text sent to friends I haven’t seen in months. I feel it every time I turn on the news or talk to my loved ones about how they’re handling everything.
There is grief, big and small, surrounding us. Loss manifesting in a million different ways.
And yet, alongside all of that is deep gratitude. I feel it with every day of health we are given. I feel it as I watch exhausted healthcare workers continue to pour their hearts into protecting those who are sick or hurting. I feel it as I watch 90th birthday driveby parades and all of the resourceful ways that people are celebrating one another despite the pain of the day. I feel it as I watch the resilience of my friends, my coworkers, my family members, and communities as they weather the twists and turns with grace.
Grief and gratitude intertwined in the fabric of our everyday experiences. And as we enter further into the holiday season, I’m carrying the hurt and hopefulness together.
I’m mourning for those who are isolated, who are hurting, who are burned out, who are grieving, who are at the end of their capabilities. I am mourning for the shattered expectations and the canceled trips and the postponed visits. I am mourning for every person roaming the aisles decorated for Christmas with anxiety and uncertainty instead of excitement and anticipation.
But I am also hopeful. I am hopeful that this pain will not last forever. I am hopeful that this holiday apart will lead to more holidays together. I am hopeful that this time will remind us that it was never about the presents or the perfectly orchestrated parties but the gift of quality time with the people who matter most. I’m hopeful that this ache, so fitting for a time of advent, helps us reflect on how important it is to hold onto faith in trying seasons.
This holiday season hurts for so many of us. And it’s okay to mourn for that. It’s okay if you don’t decorate the house as much or if you decorate it even more. It’s okay if you make a beautiful meal and break out the fine china or if you order takeout from your favorite local restaurant. It’s okay if some traditions are modified this year. It’s okay if the Christmas music is on blast until January 15th or you skip over it the second you hear the first few notes of the song. Be gentle with how you process the season this year.
This holiday is heavy and hard and heartbreaking. And yet, this holiday is not lost. It’s not wasted. The hope we long for is still here, underneath the chaos of it all. The hope is still there, twinkling alongside the lights on our Christmas trees. And it may be quieter than the pain. It may be subtle. But as we look back on everything we went through this past year, we will see that the heartbeat of this holiday season was still hope. Let’s hold onto that when we can’t hold onto our loved ones just yet. Let’s hold onto that as we adjust and adapt and love one another through it, through Zooms and porch drop-offs and phone calls that come at just the right moment. Let’s hold onto that hope in whatever way we can this Christmas.