You stand in a room full of the usual hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Love and gratitude are the theme and memories flood in faster than you can process them.
It’s all so much, and you are so tired at the depths of your soul.
Grief is exhausting and the holidays are daunting.
The people in the room know you well.
The friends and family in the room love you, but they don't know how to help, and they'd like nothing more than for you to be your old self again.
You can't be that person any longer.
You know too much.
You've lived through too much.
Grief changes you at the core.
You feel completely alone despite being surrounded by other people. It is not the kind of alone where you are in physical solitude. It's the kind of loneliness that comes with emotional isolation and the grief of that one person you lost.
You spend each special day staring at an empty chair.
The chair represents the hole left in your being and the chasm that encompasses your heart from this day forward.
The chair won't fill with platitudes and well wishes.
The chair can't be moved to another room or put away because it's an inconvenience to dinner guests.
Another can't take the chair or replace with a new version of its former self.
The chair is empty, and it sits at the table of your heart forever reminding you of what you have lost and why each day you have left is utterly precious.
To pretend the chair doesn't exist is useless, it's not hidden away, it's in clear view and your eyes are drawn to the lines, curves, and the starkness and depth of its hollowness.
The chair, while a brutal reminder of all you lost and all the duality that sits in the core of your being, it also serves as a beautiful reminder of all we still have as we move forward after loss.
The chair hints to us not to allow petty differences divide us and keep us from loving those we cherish most.
The chair prompts us to hug, hold, and express love at every moment. We've learned that each hour might be the last and we can't waste time mincing words or hold back emotions.
The chair encourages us to be brave, live boldly and take risks worth taking.
The chair cautions us not to waste our valuable time.
The chair scares us, the fear of that pain cuts like no other wound, and yet exhilarates us as it serves as a constant reminder of what is at stake in this life.
The empty chair is a forever part of who you are now. It will be at every holiday meal, every school dance, graduation, wedding and each happy tear will be laced with a whisper of sadness.
The chair is empty, but your life does not have to be.
Take your pain and allow it to remind you that you loved and lost, you experienced the pain because you lived the joy. Let the memories push you forward towards new hope and new life. You can honor what was, what came before, what filled the chair and left your table complete, all while expanding your circle with new memories, new love, and new life.
Be prepared, the more you love in this life, the more empty chairs you may have in the future. The potential of an emotional vacuum is a frightening realization, maybe even enough to keep you from opening your heart to possibility.
Don't let the fear of loss keep you from living.
Let the experiences of life, the memories, and the heart-stopping joy of each moment fill up your chairs until they are overflowing with passion and appreciation for each moment of your existence.
Someday the chairs may become empty again, but we wouldn't trade one memory to save our hearts the pain, and we wouldn't remove the chairs of those we loved from our hearts table.
At the end of it all, it's not the empty chairs that define our lives; it's the bounty we brought to our table. Fill your hearts table with vibrant hues and deep colors. Bring in all the chairs you can fit because love is what matters.
Feel the emptiness but don't forget to feel the love that still surrounds you on this day.
Each beautiful feeling will forever occupy your heart.
Pull up a chair and share your soul genuinely with those who sit at your table. Someday your chair may be empty for them, fill it up, make it memorable, and never waste a precious second.
You are still here for a reason.
You should live.
Read more from Michelle in her new bestselling book, Healthy Healing