We are well in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle. In recent history, the holiday season has been marked by robust gatherings with friends and family, around scrumptious meals that hold deep nostalgia and beautiful meaning.

Over the past 2 years, holidays have changed as the pandemic continues to threaten our resolve, chip away at our souls, and limit our rest. Gatherings are smaller, traditions have changed.

For many, this season brings with it a sadness that outweighs the joy that it is known for.

Fewer daylight hours means nightfall comes more quickly, and there are more hours without light than we were used to in the spring and summer months. 

The changing seasons often bring with them changes in brain chemistry that can lead to depressive episodes until the light comes back. 

Fewer chairs at the table also bring with them a somberness that is felt deep in the bones. The absence of our loved ones is very pronounced at the holidays. It can feel isolating to carry an ache with you that no one seems to understand; it’s lonely to be accompanied by sorrow into celebrations that are filled with joy.

If you are struggling with sadness, grief, anxiety, or depression this holiday season, you are not alone.

Tonight, on the longest night of the year, communities gather to honor loss – the death of loved ones, the loss of normalcy, changes in relationships, changes in jobs or roles, loss of identity following a death, even the loss of hope. 

This night, this longest night will not last forever. When you wake in the morning, you’ll look ahead as very slowly, the days become more filled with light. 

But for now, it’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to sit with your grief – to honor it, to listen to it, to let it inform the ways you need to be gentle with yourself. 

If you are grieving tonight, you are not alone. As you consider the adapted words of this poem by Howard Thurman, I invite you to light a candle in remembrance of that which you are mourning tonight.

I will light candles this evening. Candles of joy despite all the sadness, candles of hope where despair keeps watch. Candles of courage for fears ever present, candles of peace for tempest-tossed days. Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens, candles of love to inspire all my living. Candles that will burn all year long.

Grief is a complex and complicated reality of life. When winter pokes it and finds a tender spot that still hurts, still bleeds when pressed, it causes a pain we can’t run from. It is the kind of pain that we have to walk through to get to the other side where the salve of endurance can soothe and calm. 

As you walk through your pain on this night, know that you are not alone. Let the candle or candles you have lit remind you of hope, courage and peace that sustain even in those times when you can’t feel it.

Take comfort in these words from an Apache Blessing for Grief:

May the sun bring you new energy every day,bringing light into the darkness of your soul. May the moon softly restore you by night,bathing you in the glow of restful sleep and peaceful dreams. May the rain wash away your worries,and cleanse the hurt that sits in your heart. May the breeze blow new strength into your being, and may you believe in the courage of yourself.

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