Chestnuts are roasting in millions of homes across America. Living rooms have morphed into mini utopic winter wonderlands with life-sized, rotating snowmen and extravagant life-sized naivety scenes. Notes of pine and gingerbread stick to our ugly sweaters and follow us room to room.
Yet something is missing.
Frank Sinatra and Mariah Carey get us in the spirit. These singers who have synonymized their image with Christmas remind us that Santa is not only on his way, but he bears every gift. From a new rice cooker to a brand new Mercedes coupe wrapped in a gigantic red bow with free gas for life, so long as his milk and chocolate chip cookies are fresh, and positioned correctly on the edge of the mantle.
Still, something is missing.
The aroma of mulled wine and cinnamon sticks lingers, but so does the memory of our loved one. We ache through the absence of our loved ones, which are triggered randomly. The presence of family and perceived love in others lives’ reminds us of the moments we had, and don’t have to create again. And we want that noise to stop. We want to burn the Christmas trees. We want Santa to fall off his sleigh to an imminent, but at least painless death, and wake up in the next year already. The loved ones who we have once shared the magic of Christmas with do not exist. The spell has been ripped away—its been torn apart like a heartsick kindergarten from his mom on the first day of first grade.
For several weeks, I have contemplated a message I could share about coping with loss in the holidays. I’m drawn to a tone of morbidity, hopelessness, and nihilism to be spiteful and provocative. But, no matter how hopeless celebration amid pain feels, life-experience has two sides. Loss is one side; gain is the other side. As the sunset sets, it rises. This idea may feel ripe for someone still healing, but there may be a way to navigate the holiday-scape.
Instead of remembering those we’ve lost, let’s upgrade our language to honor the memory of those who have lived. What if we focused on the lessons we’ve learned from their presence? Instead of the twelve days of Christmas, we have the twelve best pictures or write out the twelve best moments or laughs. We play back the tape of memories and bask in the joy with stories and with people who experienced their force as well.
While bittersweet, an inescapable truth remains. By remembering those we’ve lost or any backward-looking insight, we risk missing opportunities and the moments that are still accessible to us. Moments that offer us a different shade of joy. We miss the people, the experience, and the love that is right in front of us.
This holiday season, I encourage you to honor the memory and observe the lessons of those you’ve lost no matter the circumstances. Remember that as long as you breathe, your story—what you did with those memories and those lessons still exist.
Previously Published on rossvictory.com