Don't focus on what you didn't get or what you have lost, focus on all the love you have experienced
Christmas time typically brings lots of cheer, but for many, it brings sadness. It’s during this time that we often think about loved ones who aren’t with us, relationships that have ended, and things that we may have lost. For some, this time can be lonely and distressing.
Yesterday, I saw a friend from the airport whose mother passed away earlier this year. I travel a great deal and have made many friends at the wonderful airport here in Savannah. When Norm’s mom passed away, he called to let me know. Norm and other airport friends have spent many holidays at my house with my family and so they are my family too. He’s an only child and a “mama’s boy” (his words, not mine) so spending the holiday without his mother for the first time is amazingly painful. It’s that way for lots of folks this time of year.
I have another dear friend whose closest sister died suddenly a few months back. My friend is now raising her sister's young son and is trying to deal with the loss of her best friend. When I spoke to her a few days ago, she commented on the fact that she hadn’t realized just how much her sister did for the family at holiday time and now this would be her role too. She talked about missing her and how you don’t really feel the full loss of a loved one until long after the funeral is over .
I understand how old hurts open during the holidays. I’ve lost a mother and child, a nephew and sister. The pain never really goes away, but it does become more bearable. I’ve often heard people say things like, “You just need to let that go and get over it,” but the emotional pain felt during holidays for many is real and difficult to just get over. I’m a firm believer that if something is defined as real then it is real in its consequences.
I have a wonderful sister friend who is amazing in so many ways. She has had many serious health challenges and she keeps on bouncing back. A few years ago, she ended up in ICU. The doctors told her daughter to call in the family as she would not make it through the night. We all flew in and gathered around but instead of crying and pleading with God all night, we decided to lift her up. We told stories of her life and sang songs of joy. We sat in the waiting area with other people who had loved ones in critical condition and we invited them to share their stories as well. Whenever a hospital staff member walked by, they'd stop and come in to see what was going on. We told them they could join us but to be ready to be happy ‘cause there wasn’t going to be any sorrow in that waiting room. As we took turns to see my sister/friend, we were told of her condition. Each time there was progress, but the doctors said, don’t be too hopeful. “Well, she made it through the night," they'd say, "but we don’t know how, but don’t be too hopeful.” Hours later we’d hear, “She is hanging on and seems to be holding her own, but we don’t know how much damage was done to her organs, so even is she lives, she won’t function, so don’t be hopeful.”
We would say thank you and then we’d sing another song and tell another story. My sisters’ daughters are brilliant and beautiful people and they love their mother dearly. They shared stories of how they thought they were getting a doctoral degree because their mom took them to all of her classes when they were just girls. We laughed about how she’d give them assignments and tell them that they were in college too. Her daughters encouraged us and reminded us that their mother had said she was not done, so we were not to cry nor worry and we did as we were told. Then something amazing happened, not only did my sister/friend experience a miraculous recovery, so did everyone else who had been in ICU while we were there. The other people in the waiting room said they didn’t want to leave us. The nurses and doctors were calling my sister, the miracle on the floor. By the third day, she was conscious and telling us what to do.
We have all suffered a great deal of loss, but I have decided to focus on all that I have gained. I have friends who adore me and a family who truly loves me. I have folks all over the world who think of me as I think of them. But my life is never just about me, so I will make sure that I reach out to those friends who feel alone or depressed by the holiday; not in a “come over here and experience my life,” but a thank-you for what you do for me and others.
If this holiday time becomes difficult for you, lift up your own life. Share of yourslef with others and tell stories of who you are.
My wonderful editor/sister Janet Hill Talbert says that when a person dies, a library closes, but it is our responsibilty to keep it open.
Lift up the lives of those you love and of yourself. Tell your story.
As we remember the story of the birth of Christ, let it renew our own lives and revive our hearts, bringing us back to life.
I'm about to take an 8 hour drive to visit my sister/friend. I'm going to surprise her and her daughters. We will all spend the day laughing and lfting up life.
Christ is Born.
Be Well, Be You
Bertice Berry PhD