When I write about the holiday season in America, always running in the back of my mind is the thought that the holiday season is both easy and hard. It’s magical, and it’s tragic. It’s necessary and superfluous. Some years, perhaps as do you, I struggle to get through. And yet, in other years, I am full of excited anticipation.

No two people experience the holidays the same way. Traditions, family ideals, and loss guide us or even misguide us. Today I want to talk about loss and grieving this holiday season and its relationship to Thanksgiving and the pandemic.

At some point, everyone has experienced a loss.  No one has had the loss you have. Many have lost jobs, but not your job. No one has lost your daughter the same way you have lost her, but most of us have lost someone. Grief can be lonely, but it can also bring people together through commonalities.

Symptoms of grieving may include lack of appetite, trouble breathing, lack of interest in regular activities, and feeling overwhelmed. Just getting out of bed may be impossible. Trying to muster the courage to move through grief may be strong one day and absent the next. However we are feeling is what is normal for us. Embrace these feelings. Allow them to wash through you. If you don’t feel like going to an event, don’t go. If you go and then decide it’s too much, then leave. If you don’t feel like cooking, don’t cook. If you can’t muster the energy or enthusiasm to approach shopping and crowds, don’t. How you feel today may not be how you feel tomorrow. You are not required to make excuses or apologies. Remember, “no” is a complete sentence. Likewise, “yes” to your own needs is also a complete sentence.

As the pandemic continues into another holiday season, it’s important to note that many are grieving the loss of loved ones, jobs, friends, or a home; they are grieving the loss of what they thought were structured, everyday lives. It has highlighted how loss can shake our belief in structure and what we think of as normal.

“What is normal at any given time? We change just as the seasons change, and each spring brings new growth. So nothing is ever quite the same.” (Crown Duel)

As the pandemic wanes, and the holiday season comes and goes, we move forward into a new way of living. Grieve what or who have passed. Allow healing. Use this holiday season as an opportunity for change and transformation. May the Thanksgiving holiday transform into a symbol of inclusiveness, highlighted with persistent grace, thankfulness, humility, gratitude, remembrance, and respect.

Reflect. Be mindful of the resources needed to feed, clothe, house and heal. Reach out to those who are alone, misunderstood, or lacking in ways we cannot imagine. Reach out “just because.”

If we are grieving or know someone experiencing loss, may we have the courage to take the next steps.

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