I love the holidays, all the rituals and customs – the way it touches a place inside of us and makes us sparkle. It’s how I felt before my husband died twenty years ago, and it’s how I feel now. However, when Jim died, in late October, right before the holidays, I felt as if I would never be able to get through the holiday season that began a month later with Thanksgiving, continuing on to Christmas and New Years. Eventually I was able to feel the joy and sparkle again, but it took time. I created new rituals that became a part of the celebration for me. I bought a beautiful big white candle with silver stars embedded in the side. I’d light it every night and watch the flame flicker while the candle glowed and the stars twinkled. It became a tangible symbol of our connection.
This has been such a difficult year.
Not only for people whose loved ones have died, but for the many who have suffered great loss from natural disasters like the fires and hurricanes. It’s been a tumultuous year as anyone who reads the headlines knows. The holidays can be overwhelming for many of us, especially if we are grieving. This holiday season I want to remind you that no matter where you are in your grieving, be compassionate towards yourself. Give yourself time if you need it.
We all try so hard for others, why can’t we try hard for ourselves too? There were many occasions when I had to take a break and step back, even if it was to just go the restroom for a few minutes, where I could cry, take some deep breaths, and remind myself it was okay to not be okay. It was also okay to smile and welcome a happy moment.
I took this photo of all the angels in the Christmas Tree at the Met because it reminded me of all the angels in my life who showed up for me then and continue to show up for me today.
What I’m Reading:
I finished reading When Breath Becomes Air, written by the late Dr. Paul Kalanithi, who sent his best friend an email in May 2013 revealing that he had terminal cancer. He wrote: “The good news is that I’ve already outlived two Brontës, Keats and Stephen Crane. The bad news is that I haven’t written anything.”
His gift to all of us is that he did write this extraordinary book in the last year of his life. While learning how to die, Paul Kalanithi teaches us how to live.
Poetry has always helped me make sense of the world, and it has often comforted me at my most challenging times. Poetry explores the deeper mysteries of the universe and what could be more mysterious than what happens when we lose someone we love. I love poetry and look forward to sharing some of my favorites with you.
I enjoyed the exploration in this wonderful essay from The Poetry Foundation, called Left Behind, Can Poetry Comfort the Grieving?
I found this wonderful, engaging cartoon by Marzy Wilson , I’m Grieving and I Want You To Know I think it’s fantastic how she expresses essential “need-to-know” experiences of grieving.
(Click on the picture to enlarge)
Last, I’d like to leave you with these two quotes:
Wishing you peace and a happy New Year.
See you in 2018!!
Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC, is an author and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, where she specializes in trauma, grief and loss. Her award-winning book, You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing, and Hope combines her personal story of devastating loss with practical insights and simple suggestions for healing. Join her Facebook community, Grief to Gratitude, and follow her on Instagram.