We were to meet promptly at nine that Thanksgiving morning, as my father-in-law was to share his beloved family recipes. This was ever important this holiday season as he had been battling cancer all year long, and we were to step in if needed in the coming years.
We arrived on time and anxious to learn his ways of turning love and ingredients into a feast worth writing about. My soulmate and I walked in, dressed in festive attire with our two excited girls close behind.
Suddenly our world changed as we saw their dearest grandpa lying in a hospice bed taking up most of the living room. Out of nowhere, as if the alluding our knowing, we were faced with an indigestible reality: he was dying.
We were thrown to say the least. We grasped at putting the pieces of the day together; we were baboons in his kitchen finding which way was up. I held his hand between cooking advice and unmet demands, doing our best in an upside-down memorable day, which in our girls’ lives would last forever.
Within days he disappeared from our world, and ongoing life was callous to our loss. The site of our youngest hugging his gravestone will remain one of my most torturous memories. And I’ll never forget her words on the way home. Though we speak of spirit often and the universe and eternal life, her sweet innocence still breaks my heart.
“I know grandpa is dead, but when do we get to see him again?”
In our gasps of explanation that he is always near and has power to help love and guide us, we learned much practically and spiritually from that loss at holiday time.
1. It might sound small, but quantify those family recipes and traditions before a generation passes. Ask them their ways and their whys. You can never get that information again. And maybe record it, for there is nothing like a loved one’s voice guiding you years later when it has faded from your mind.
2. Cherish and make time to be with those relatives who are unwell. You will not be able to get those moments back. You really will be proud you made the time and spent your grace sharing with loved ones. You don’t want to lament, “If only we had one more lunch together…”
3. Talk about your loved ones, especially for the children. Use their name, share your feelings, and keep them a part of your lives through vocal remembrance. Those up there love this, trust me. And let it be wonderful to laugh on their behalf.
4. When life is indifferent to your loss, take a moment. When the world doesn’t stop for your suffering, you must require time out for yourself. Ask for help. Create some space to process, hurt, and heal.
5. In Feng Shui, northwest is the directions of the lungs and grief. Adding metal to this area balances the earthy heaviness of grief. Open windows in that area of your home, let it air out, and breathe air deeply in and out.
We have all lost someone, and it often feels harder during the holidays. Why is that? Should not the joy and festivity of others bring us joy? Should not gatherings and hoopla enliven us instead of making us ache and crack?
Even if we focus on all the good around us, we miss this person beyond explanation. Even if we are functioning, we might very well still be devastated.
And it isn’t that we can’t have the elation of others. And it isn’t just that we miss those cherished memories and feelings of knowing their comfort. Deep melancholy comes from a fear that we will never again have all that love.
If you or someone close is struggling as winter sets in, take heart. When life moving forward is indifferent to pain and we are dissolving in our loss, we can always take one step that will connect us and begin to heal our broken heart.
We can feel love again. Fill yourself with love first and you needn’t search for it; you need only to search for places to give it.
Close your eyes and breathe until calm. Notice your heart space and think of a loving memory. Picture anything that looks like love and feel its pink glow inside your heart.
Feel it begin to expand with every smile you can muster. Feel it grow and get warmer in your chest.
Let the loving energy vibrate pain out of your body, replacing it with love. Let the love encircle your entire body and fill every cell. Let it spill into your aura and fill the room. Breathe into this feeling, and eventually your world will be filled again with love.