THE BLOG
12/16/2014 12:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Things Aren't Merry or Bright

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Photograph taken at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art by Kristin Meekhof

There is a big push this time of year for image management. Nearly anywhere you look there are guides on preparing the right meal, the perfect card, the amazing party, and an inspired holiday letter. There is pressure, real or imagined, to appear that you are pulled together and enjoying every minute of this season.

However, there are many who are experiencing untold suffering, and this time of year is filled with angst and sorrow. If you have experienced any sort of loss (job, divorce, death, friendship) then you can somewhat relate to these sentiments. Sometimes things aren't spectacular, and you haven't had a banner year filled with abundance. There are moments when someone asks how you are doing, you nod, clench your jaw, bite your tongue, and reply with the happy answer because it is far easier than explaining your despair.

Whenever you tell others that everything is "fine," I wonder if you are really trying to convince yourself that your heart isn't breaking? Instead, why not practice brutal honesty? This may counter your spirited holiday logic, but being honest with yourself is one way to fierce contentment. Fierce because at this time of year it isn't natural to express sadness; and yet, contentment often follows when you can give yourself a dose of honesty. For those who have suffered a significant loss, whenever it occurred, the void that the person left is often more palpable during the holidays. It isn't unnatural to see a certain item at a store and think about your beloved. Sending out cards without your child's name on it is beyond difficult, and this sadness won't easily dissolve. Walking to the grave from your car are the longest steps you will take. These are moments you never thought you would encounter.

However, being completely present with your grief and rawness is difficult. Many spend years avoiding these moments. Some feel pressure to act as though they feel special spiritual healing and experience guilt for not experiencing faith as they once understood it. Practicing this sort of raw and brutal honesty, rather it is through meditation, journal writing, or prayer won't bring back your beloved, but it will allow you to be present with your sorrow. This is the bare bones of loss. You are emotionally naked and completely vulnerable and this is why it takes an incredible amount of bravery to even enter into this space. It actually takes practice becoming this open. Some call it the road untraveled; others refer to it as holy time. Whatever you call it, healing is taking place, even though it may be in small increments.

The path to contentment isn't found in the aisle at your local department store. For many it is discovered in the small tender moments while there's a lump in your throat when a piece of music is played or you when you find a photograph of your loved one. The most beautiful things come to us when the light is silent and darkness is bright.

Kristin Meekhof has an upcoming book about healty coping for widows of all ages. You can follow her here https://www.facebook.com/KristinMeekhof