Dolly Parton always helps complete my holidays. It’s not really Christmas if you don’t tear up to “Hard Candy Christmas” at least once, is it? My mom and I recently watched her Christmas on the Square movie. Towards the end of the movie, an angel-in-training softly states, “Grief is love with nowhere to go.” I looked at Mom, and she looked at me. Having both gone through our share of grief, why hadn’t we thought of this before? I know grief is love, but I’ve never thought about how this typically wonderful emotion causes so much pain simply because it’s trapped inside our hearts.
So, how do we let this love out- especially during the holidays, which are particularly painful- so we can continue to heal? We can’t simply block our memories or pretend we’re not hurting. The heart and mind don’t work that way. Maybe the trick to dealing with this painful love can be found in a positive reframe. By looking at it from a different angle, we can give it some place to go. Let me explain.
Like so many of you, we’ve had our share of losses in December. Three of my four grandparents died between the 19th and the 25th on different years. Each year, when these dates roll around, they remind us we’re missing someone dear. Instead of being sad, however, we’ve (unconsciously until this point) reframed the sadness by taking a different approach with our memories. For example, my grandmother died on Christmas day years ago. For her memorial service, my uncle made us all Santa Claus pins from pinecones to wear in solidarity. We could easily allow this pin to symbolize a dark day. However, a Christmas morning rarely passes when our pins aren’t proudly displayed on our PJs. While we could keep our pins hidden away in a special place protecting our hearts, wearing them proudly keeps her memory alive while healing our hearts and bringing a smile to all who see them.
When my dad was alive, every Christmas he would playfully ask when we were going to make wassail and sing carols. While we thankfully never sang the carols, we did make the wassail. A year or two after he died, we starting making his wassail, and we continue to do so each year. I’ve even passed the recipe on to a few of my friends. Each time I place that cinnamon stick in my mug, my heart warms, and I let a little more love for Dad out of my heart and into our home. And while I still miss him dearly, the grief has gotten easier and each Christmas has gotten sweeter.
Thank you, Dolly, for enriching our holidays once again. So many of us are struggling with grief this time of year. Your angel is absolutely right- grief is love with nowhere to go. But we can heal that grief by letting our painful love out by letting the memories and traditions of our loved ones back in.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you reframe your grief? What do you do to keep your loved one’s memory alive during the holidays?
PS. If this post hits home, and you’re struggling this year, I wrote you a quick letter. Check it out here.
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