holly2Many of us know the disparity of the holidays too well.

In what should be a time of festivity and joy, this season instead doubles down on our pain. The isolation from loss or other upheavals in our lives, such as the distance from estranged family members or friends feels magnified.

Especially on this day of relative darkness, the winter solstice, it’s worth noting that the light will return. If we find ways to usher it in.

I mainly wish to offer a few uplifting excerpts and chords, if you will, that resonate from other sources.

And wishing you and those you hold close an enduring season of returning light.

With peace, sans rancor, both within yourselves and out in the world.

Pausing to acknowledge that your grief may feel difficult to manage at this time of year can be an important first step toward coping with the season.

First, here are two excerpts from a blog post, “A Light in the Darkness: On Grieving in the Winter,”  by our friends at The Children’s Room. TCR is a well-respected family bereavement center in Arlington, Ma.

Acknowledge the darkness

“Though winter can place many extra demands on us, it is important to remember that winter, too, has its place in the course of seasons, and darkness has its place in relationship to light. Similarly, when feeling overwhelmed, pausing to acknowledge that your grief may feel difficult to manage at this time of year can be an important first step toward clarifying how you might cope with the season. Taking time to understand that the season’s changes may be affecting you, and naming the ways that it might be doing so, can help you start to identify the best ways of supporting yourself and your family.”

Make time for self-care

Making time for your own needs and self-care is especially important in winter. It may seem too difficult or unrealistic to put your own needs first, but neglecting to make self-care a regular part of your daily routine can compound stress and negativity.”

Second is this recent essay, “Loving my son after his death,” by Nora Wong in the New York Times, which my wife just shared on Hope Floats’ Facebook page.

The author’s son died three years ago at 22 of a rare seizure disorder. Wong asks, in part:

So unbearable was my occluded heart that I called out to him in desperation one day: “What will I do with my love for you, Daniel?”

The question of reconciliation: can you give yourself the space and permission to let go?

Finally, for myself, at least, this season poses the question of reconciliation.
Can we forgive those who’ve done someone terrible harm? Who have neglected or trounced another’s feelings, or even deny what they have done?

Can I forgive myself?

A guided meditation my wife and I recently did offered some splinters of light here. The guide asked us to envision meeting someone we have negative energy for in a sunny field. Someone I may even need to let go of, whom I picture walking toward me.

I discovered that both of us are connected by a rope of guilt or dysfunction, or by heavy strands of regret and acrimony. It weighs on both sides more than we will admit. The suggestion is that meeting this person halfway, perhaps affirming his weakness or mistake, is one step to relieve that weight. Affirming the place he or she is in.

Another is giving yourself space and permission to let go—of the anger, and of carrying it around.

In some cultures, the winter solstice also signifies a time of reconciliation—even if this is a momentary offering of forgiveness.

For example, the ancient Roman Saturnalia festival, in honor of Saturn, father of the gods, was marked by showing goodwill towards all men. As Beliefnet, an inspirational website notes, slave owners served their slaves and people showered each other with gifts.

Still, I must wonder how this all really works out. Can we actually reconcile with the self-imposed blindness the other side doesn’t see, or won’t admit?

How do we go forward in our lives? Can we sustain this?

Perhaps that is some of the challenge embedded in turning from darkness to light.