Recently someone pointed out to me that the holidays can be further complicated when some family members are once again ready for the joy of the holidays and others are not. This is true no matter what holiday is being celebrated.
First, I want to say that I don’t know why some people are able to move forward and others cannot. I suspect it has something to do with how deeply old neurological patterns that no longer make sense are imbedded in our brains and how hard it can be to create new patterns and habits. In other words, for some the holidays will always be painful. The only solution in these situations is to accept these people as they are. They have been broken so badly that they are unable to heal. This makes me sad, but there are things in life that do.
Yet, where there is the possibility of creating new neurological pathways there is also the possibility of again feeling joy; it will be a different type of joy, but nonetheless joy. It’s perfectly all right if one person is less jovial that another. It’s to be expected that the joyous person’s joy may be slightly dampened by the grieving person’s grief. And the grieving person’s grief may be slightly lifted by the joyous person’s joy. Most encounters have some of this dynamic. It just tends to be more pronounced when someone is grieving. By recognizing this we gain insight into how our experiences change who we are and how together we can create something new. This is a good thing.
Some may believe that being our joyous selves in the presence of someone we know is hurting is disrespectful or even a betrayal. I don’t think it is. I think when we are not true to who we are and how we feel that it creates a new type of hurt. Because when we do this we are not trusting in the other person or our connection to one another. There is of course a respectful way to do this. One must refrain from cajoling or insisting that the griever participate fully in one’s excitement. Guilt is never a welcome guest.
The place to start is, as always, accepting others as they are. When we acknowledge that the person in front of us is still hurting and we are able to accept them as they are, then we must also have faith that that person is capable of accepting us as we are. That we will be accepted by them even if we have moved towards a place of greater light and away from the darkness of grief that still is prevalent in their lives.
When our hearts have healed to the point where we long for the love and joy that comes with the holidays it follows that we must have enough faith in our loved ones who are still grieving to know that they love us and wants us to be happy. It is to also trust that they will understand we are introducing joy into the situation with the intention that doing so will create a more joyful experience for all. Sometimes this needs to be said out loud.
Sharing our joy is about bringing forth a part of our relationship with this person that existed long before grief moved in. Those who are ready to move forward are the ones who are now in a position to bring this back. It’s a gift when our souls long for joy and we are called to share it. But be warned, like all creative enterprises, doing so can get very messy, emotional and results will likely not be immediate. Doing so takes courage and it is worth it. It takes a leap of faith to walk into the unknown not knowing what this new joy might look like. And it’s a leap of faith that must be taken by not only those who are grieving but also by those longing to express their joy.
Full disclosure: This is my first attempt in writing to explain why this is worth doing. Like all first attempts it may be a little messy. I’ve often spoken and written on accepting those who grieve unconditionally. In this blog I’m writing that when the griever is no longer raw* they must make an effort to unconditionally love those who unconditionally love them. They will have to dig deep into where their love lives, because in the early days grief can overpower feelings of love. When one reaches for feelings of love, one’s grief is challenged. Instinctively the griever knows that when they make space for joy, even small splinters of it, to enter the soul, they also make space for other less pleasant emotions. This can be painful and messy. It too requires courage and in the long run it too is worth it.
Healthy relationships are a two-way street. There will be times when one of you carries the other, and when we are the broken one and let others carry us we learn that at some point in time we will become the one who will do the carrying. What is more subtle and sometimes missed is that as we move through this space we learn from one another. We are exchanging knowledge about what it is like to be on both sides of this experience. One bears witness to suffering, the other to compassion. In this knowledge we surrender to what it means to be human, to be broken, to trust, to give, to accept, and to receive. Simply put, if we are going to heal we are going to have to try and be open to what we can create together, messiness and all.
May love enter through the cracks in our hearts made by grief so that we will again feel joy.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~Rumi~
Stay well, Heike
* I do not suggest trying this with someone who is still emotionally raw or experiencing acute grief. The best thing to do at that time is to simply accept and to support in any way possible.