It's the Christmas season. A time of good will, good cheer, and happy celebrations. Holiday decorations, presents, and parties abound in cheerful splendor.
But for those who are hurting and feeling as if like has broken them apart, this spread of cheerfulness can serve as a painful reminder of what they have lost.
I know many who are facing the first Christmas without a loved one whose empty chair at the table looms large over every gathering. Some of these are even now in the midst of funeral details with their grief as fresh and sharp as the bitter cold that bites the air and freezes our lungs.
Others are facing the first Christmas after a divorce or separation has torn their family asunder, leaving each half of the newly divided family spending part of the holiday alone as the kids shuttle back and forth between their parents' new homes.
Some are facing the holiday in the wake of broken relationships with family or other loved ones that taint the celebrations with loneliness, heartache, and grief as the season of togetherness throws their estrangement into sharp, aching focus.
Still others are facing health issues that are dampening the holiday cheer with physical pain, reduced ability to participate, worry about their future well-being, and anxiety over the impact of any necessary treatment on their finances.
Or maybe financial issues, like loss of a job or an unexpected large expense, have colored the season with anxiety in the face of pressure to produce gifts and holiday meals and holiday decorations with dwindling resources.
There are as many causes of feeling heartbroken and alone this holiday as there are people on this planet.
In my own family, we are watching and waiting as my grandmother's health rapidly declines in the wake of her stroke last week. There is more talk of planning a funeral than of celebrating her 91st birthday next Monday.
What do we do when we face Christmases like this that feel broken and bruised as the world celebrates all around us?
Personally, I find comfort in seasons like this from today's celebration of Yule, or the Winter Solstice.
I am truly not a fan of winter. I am one of those people who is perpetually cold and never can seem to get enough sunlight even in summer, so winter is a long, dark slog of aching fingers and toes and never feeling like I ever fully get warm no matter how many layers of itchy wool I pile on.
At this end of winter, the season seems to stretch on infinitely before me. Warmth and bright sunlight seem to be gone forever, and it's hard to even imagine the return of summer's heat and lush green.
And yet, every year the days do still lengthen (oh so slowly!) and warmth does return to thaw my frozen fingers toes. Today's ice and snow and bitter cold will not last forever.
Over the years, I've learned that this time of cold and dark is made less awful for leaning into it instead of away from it. The cold and dark are here whether I want them to be or not, and setting myself in resistance against them only makes me miserable. It does nothing to change the weather.
As I lean into winter, finding those things I can enjoy about the season—snuggly blankets, hot chocolate, fires in the fireplace, hot soups and stews to warm and fill me from the inside out—my suffering from resisting what is lessens and I more easily pass the time waiting for Spring's appearance.
Likewise, when I allow a Christmas season to simply be what it is—with all the brokenness, pain, and messiness that actually exists—instead of resisting it in the desire that it be more cheerful, happy, or celebratory, I make space for the good things to exist alongside the pain.
Facing the pain without resistance allows me to also see the beauty of others who come alongside to offer support, good wishes, or cheer as gifts rather than assaults on my own grief.
I can find these small beauties embedded even in the grief and pain and, in seeing them, find comfort in their appearance even as I acknowledge the reality that Winter is here to stay for a bit. Spring will come as it always does, and there is great hope in that, but that day is not today.
For today, I can simply be with what is. The waiting. The cold. The sadness. It may not be what I want to be feeling this season, but it is what is. And it will be ok.
If you are also facing a broken Christmas in whatever way that might look like for you, please know that you are not alone.
Send me a message if you need a listening ear or an encouraging word to help get you through a challenging time. Reach out for the support you need as you lean into what is this season.
Spring will come. I don't know when, but I know it will.
Wishing you all a blessed Yule today and the happiest Christmas possible for you this weekend.