The dawning of the New Year brings with it more than just a change in numbers; it brings a promise of longer and warmer days that contrast with the early arrival of night in wintertime. This is why our winter holidays celebrate light and swirl on the calendar around the winter solstice near the end of December. Every candle and every light that twinkles in windows and along streets are meant to give us hope that life will continue and will be good again.
As difficult as it is for people experiencing grief to feel comforted by the holidays when everyone is gathering around friends and family they have not lost, it may be soothing to meditate on the tiny lights that speckle our homes and towns during the winter, and consider what they represent. Though they may not appear cheery or beautiful when seen through the eyes of grief, focus on the twinkling lights as a spark of hope for feeling better.
Contemplating a time when we don’t ache so acutely or feel so impossibly broken takes patience and practice. It requires focusing not on the pain, which feels inescapable, but on everything but the pain. It is like dreaming of a warm, sandy beach in summer, which will eventually be your destination, while in the middle of a cold winter. For example, instead of waking up, forgetting someone is no longer with you, and hiding under the covers when you remember, what could your morning wake-up look like? What would you think, how would you feel, what would you do differently if you weren’t confronted with your grief upon waking?
Similarly, rather than dwelling on every aspect you miss about a person who has died, how would it feel to remember all the gifts and joy that person brought into your life? Again, what would you think, how would you feel, and what would you do differently to embrace those better days?
Consider your life, once the rawness of your pain has quieted. At that point, maybe the pain will still surprise you from time to time or perhaps it will be erased by a scene in a movie, a random phrase, a fragment of a song, or a scent. It no longer dazes you then or makes you feel as if someone has punched you in the stomach. Meditate on the time when your grief will be a gentler companion, rather than an unwelcome house guest. Once again, how would you feel differently? What thoughts would you think? What actions would you take?
Meditate this New Year on the above feelings, thoughts, and actions. Write them if that helps, and keep them in a journal or some other private place. Note feelings, thoughts, and actions that arise in this meditation that are happening in the present, even just a little.
The smallest candle flame dispels darkness. Your hope and ability to imagine a time when your grief will hurt less, is as bright as any Christmas light or Hanukkah candle. It shines and invites others to shine with you, even in what feels like the longest night of your lives. Tomorrow and the day after, minute by minute, the days get longer and the nights get shorter. Summer is as sure as winter.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Ivan Chan, MA, MFTi, therapist in Santa Cruz, California
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