But what happens when we don’t feel that sense of joy? What happens when the mere mention of Christmas brings shivers of dread rather than thrills of excitement; when even the thought of getting into the festive spirit requires a Trojan effort? What about those for whom Christmas is the furthest thing from ‘the most wonderful time of the year’?
For when loved ones traditionally gather together, the absence of someone special who has passed on can leave us with complex emotions. How do we celebrate joy and togetherness when someone who was so integral to those celebrations has now passed on? Christmas without a loved one can be unbearable, and even the brightest lights and most heartfelt sentiments cannot shake a grief so deep-rooted.
At a time when we are grieving – whether our loss is recent or enduring from years ago – how do we simply get through a season that calls for us to put on our best face, but where our most profound sadness and loneliness are so close to the surface?
We can look to the Christmas wreath for inspiration. The simplest of all the decorations that we associate with Christmas, the wreath is a staple symbol of the season. At night, when the curtains are closed and the lights are switched off, the humble wreath, hanging on doors all over our community, is a warm and fitting way of acknowledging the season.
But have you ever considered the significance of the wreath in its design? Typically made from evergreen foliage, the wreath is circular in shape; faithfully unbroken and unchanging, just like the memories of our loved ones and the impact they have had in our lives. And just as the wreath is circular in design, so too is our grief in its progression – it will change over the years but it will always live with us. If grief is as natural and circular as the wreath, then why would we – or anyone else – expect it to pause for Christmas?