This Thanksgiving, I’ll be spending time alone.
I’ll be sorting through my belongings and deciding what to put into boxes that will come with me into the next era of my life—letting go of a great many things and versions of myself I’ve had tucked in the back of drawers, closets, and shelves.
I don’t really mind being alone, sorting and clearing while eating yummy food, and likely watching cheesy holiday movies.
This is such a poignant time of death and birth, shedding of skins and seeds of possibility sprouting the newest of delicate roots in the soil of mystery.
What we long for—what we do not yet have—is all living in that unknown space that requires us to surrender to the death that is a part of growth and regeneration.
So, this feels like the right way to spend a holiday. We’re in the middle of a pandemic inside of a year that has been handing us steady, strong doses of the medicine of grief. It’s demanding that we take stock of what is of value to us and what is not; it’s asking us what we are going to do about the disparity between the two.
There’s no “right” way to spend the holiday, and many “Hallmark versions” of holidays feel like they need to be put in giant blue IKEA bags and hauled off to the recycling facility.
Nothing has been going the way we want. We are faced with grief. With what is not working in our lives. With restrictions on parts of our lives that we may have unconsciously been using as an escape hatch from looking into the heart of our lives and seeing the truth there. What matters.
What have we been avoiding facing?
If we were to no longer deny death, how might we live and love differently?
Grief is a natural process in which our bodies metabolize loss—loss of love, loved ones, attachments, connections, identities, and the energies of life that accumulate from trauma in our bodies.
It’s human to grieve. Grief is what heals us by metabolizing our pain. When we shut this down, we struggle with self-loathing, depression, anxiety, addiction, codependency, and so on.
We live in a grief-phobic culture. We fear grief, not only because of the intensity of backed up grief that we intuitively sense, but because of the death that is inherent in grief.
A part of us dies when we surrender to grief.
We’re also afraid of grief because we can’t fix it.
We can come up with many treatments for diagnosis, but not grief. Grief can’t be fixed.
And it doesn’t need to be healed, but rather held, honored, listened to, given over to ritual, ceremony, and given space to be. To do its work on us. To bring us closer to ourselves. To each other. To the Earth, herself.
Grief is a place we are reminded we do not have control. That we are living in an alive universe we are participating, co-creating, and dancing in. A universe in which we are loving.
We do not grieve what we do not love.
There is an inherent love inside our grief. For what we’ve lost. Our relationship to it. For ourselves and for what will come into being from the unknown as we renegotiate our beliefs and connection to love, the divine, and our own souls.
This is the spiral of life.
Our grief is an honoring of what was. It gives us a sense of what we are grateful for—what is of value to us. What matters the most in life. It gives our gratitude the texture of joy and love and appreciation we can’t find in empty platitudes or the spiritual ascension of our common human experience.
If you are feeling grief during the holidays, pandemic or not, please know you are not alone. Hardly anyone’s lives match the cultural fairytale we have been sold, and many who try to fit into it have the grief to match.
Make space for both your grief and your gratitude.
A simple ritual is to take rose petals and blow your grief, memories, and what you are letting go of—whether it’s a person, relationship, pattern, or the version of you attached to all those things—into the rose petals along with your prayers. This helps bring the love, resilience, joy, and lessons with you into a flourishing future. Then, offer the petals to nature.
Thank life for all the love blessed in that grief. Let there be a natural space of honoring the grief and the gratitude that will come.
Because grief is gratitude too. And human-ing is more than one note.