The numb holiday

The numb holiday

I’ve moved through a few, the holidays that I’m certain I experienced but have very little memory of the details or events. I could tell you exactly how it felt, though.

Loss, death, separation, illness, or the heaviness of the unexpected and uncertainty shake us apart into pieces that appear to have lost their fit. Holidays represent unity and togetherness, often an exaggerated ideal of peace and comfort in the images flooding our awareness from our cultural surroundings. They bring to the forefront what is most important to us. And sometimes what is most important to us has been taken.

A holiday following crisis or major life change can feel anything but magical. As we approach such celebrations and I write these words, I stir memories of those past – the Christmas after my father’s death as a 17-year-old girl and the Christmas following my abrupt separation. Now I stand at the edge of something altogether different.

I felt empty, hollow, and incomplete. The traditions I held for so long were challenged, perforated — familiarity spilling out of the holes more quickly than I was able to catch it in my cupped hands. What once was, wasn’t any longer. The absence of those I loved was its own entity in the room, thick and heavy, a blanket draped over everything dulling the shine, the mood, and the beauty remaining around me.

I was present in the gatherings not from within the circle, but from a distance in a quiet bubble looking on, listening to the muffled buzz of family and friends engaging just a touch out of my reach. I watched the couples exchange gifts and gestures around me. It hurt. Holiday cards arriving displaying beautiful families romping together squeezed my chest tightly as mine was newly severed. Television commercials and movies boasting the relationship between fathers and daughters, or the grandparent dynamic were received much like a sucker punch.

If you find yourself there this holiday season, please consider me by your side. You need not feel alone…

Give yourself permission to feel the rawness of the unfamiliar.

Don’t pressure yourself to fit the mold of glittery idealism.

Let the pain and grief of your obstacles move through you so that it can pass beyond you.

Let your tears flow. They run just as beautiful as the ones that fall in joy.

Challenge yourself to release the grip of attachment to tradition just enough to let peace and faith guide your tomorrows.

Trust that you are capable of flowing with this rapid until you reach a calm bend.

It won’t always feel this heavy. We’ve proven this to ourselves time and time again. We will find a new way. Our way. There is growth and hope in what seems expired.

And one day, when the dust settles and you look back upon these times, you will have the gift of viewing through a different set of eyes. Those eyes are forgiving, stronger, more tender, accepting, and rich with a vision of the love that has been thrown our way in all its facets – joy and pain intertwined – and the gift of having experienced love and life in such a way.

Gather your memories and surround yourself with those who hold your heart.

Lighting a candle and holding a place for you.



  1. Beautiful piece.

  2. Joanne Henry says

    Candles burning. I love your first ‘tag’ – acceptance. What’s more difficult to accept sometimes than what we feel today and who we are? Sometimes nothing. Can’t wait to hear about your new traditions.

  3. My sister in law needs this so badly. She and my brother just separated earlier this month… I know how hard the holidays are going to be for her.

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