by Christi Neville, LPC
As our year draws to a close, the holidays can be very bittersweet for families coping with loss. Although many grieving families’ holidays will never be quite the same, and it will take time and tenderness with ourselves to adjust, our pain does not have to define the entire holiday experience. As I was thinking of all of the many different cultures and beliefs of the Kids Who Kare families that walk through our doors, I wanted to offer something hopeful and helpful that is universal to everyone. What inspires me is the common denominator transcending most all the winter holidays….the celebration of light.
Midwinter holidays have been with us, all over the world, for thousands of years, originating in the dawn of agriculture when people depended upon the return of the sun for their survival. From the Pagan /Celtic traditions which celebrated the winter solstice, to the symbolic candles of Chanukah and Kwanzaa, to the Star of Bethlehem and consistent references to light in various religions, to the modern day extravagant show of lights at Christmas, one thing is clear: that all of these midwinter holidays celebrate the universal gifts of light – for some quite literally, but for most, symbolically, as light represents hope, wisdom, and healing. Its symbolism illuminates hearts, minds, and the human soul, and it reminds us of something very important…..that darkness must ultimately yield to light, that the sun will rise again.
For those who are grieving, this theme is especially poignant: just as deep loss forces us into the dark night of our soul, finding the light in the darkness can act as a powerful metaphor for the healing process. What the light represents may vary for each individual, and the wonderful thing is that neither religion nor faith are required for one to feel the beauty of light. For some it may be a heightened sense of peace or solace; for others, it may mean being uplifted or inspired by a song, a book, or by nature; for many, it may mean simply finding a few small moments of laughter or enjoyment in the holiday season; for most, it can mean connecting with hope….finding something, no matter how small, to be hopeful for. I remember in my own experience of loss, as I was stumbling and suffering in the dark night of my soul, and despising the expectations to be of “good cheer” at the holidays, I learned to see winter as a transformational time of reflection, remembrance, and renewal, and to see Christmas as an inner experience, an inner birth of new light and new life within myself.
Families with children may want to incorporate this theme of light by having a child-friendly conversation about how your family has let their light shine this past year, despite many dark days. Or, perhaps you may want ask your children about your loved one’s special qualities – how they brought their light into this world – and how they feel inspired to carry that forward.
Personally, I can’t help but think of the song “This Little Light of Mine” when I think of the resilience of children…you may want to simply find a way to celebrate your child’s bright and radiant spirit. However your family spends the holidays, may you connect with light that guides you, and love which blesses you.
Warmly wishing your family comfort, hope, and healing,
Christi Neville, LPC, KWK Coordinator