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Personal Essay | Struggling with Grief During the Holidays

Happy holidays! I hope that you have much to look forward to in the next few weeks, whether you’re spending time with biological family or chosen family (or having some quiet time). It’s a joyous season for everyone—at least, so we think on the surface.

I know that there are many of you out there who are struggling with emotions that don’t seem to fit the holiday cheer that surrounds and bombards you on all sides. Some of you are grieving the loss of a loved one, a now empty chair at your table. Some of you are dreading returning home to a dysfunctional family environment where you feel you cannot be your fullest, most authentic self. Some of you are dealing with physical and mental health problems that can limit your participation in holiday activities. Some of you are worried about the heated, hateful political climate and how it’s affecting your life. Some of you are wondering what comes next in your life because you are feeling stuck. Some of you aren’t even sure what you’re feeling because you’ve numbed yourself in an attempt to protect yourself.

I just want to say that I hear you. I see you. I value you. I’m with you. I’m also dealing with a mixed bag of emotions in a time when the expected emotions include peace and joy. It’s okay. It’s enough. You’re enough. I’m enough. You don’t have to fake holiday cheer—here are some grief resources and here are some self-care resources.

I want you to know something, and I want you to carry this with you this season:

On certain days, you may feel that the world is hurrying along your recovery process, that people are pushing you to be healed in ways you’re not sure if you ever will be, let alone right now on this specific day. You may feel that you are fighting a battle that no one acknowledges anymore. You may feel that the socially “acceptable” period of grieving is over and now you must fight this battle alone, in silence, with the weight of fifty warriors’ gear on your back.

You may feel alone today, but know that there will be other days when people will offer you a tissue box before you even start crying, a hug before you even ask, or a knowing and concerned look that shows you that yes, they have time to talk with you because you are important and they care about you more than words could describe, before you even have to muster the courage to seek their help. There will be other days, and people to share the highs and lows of healing with. Worse days where others will attempt to hold your pieces together as they scatter in the rising wind, but also better days where your joy and milestones will be celebrated, glasses chiming and tears of happiness streaming down your faces, saying, “Today, we conquered the beast. Tomorrow looks good, too, but whatever comes, we will fight it—or enjoy it—together.”

So, if today is a day you have faced by yourself, have faith that there will be days in your future that you split your warrior gear up amongst your companions, and they will help you bear your burden. You, however, are not a burden. The weight of recovery and relapse is heavy, far too much for one person to carry alone, but that does not mean you are a burden. It means you are human and that you are fighting for hope.

You will find your way and you will find your team because that’s what you deserve. You deserve everything that is good in this world, and then some. You deserve so much more than “good,” too. You deserve extraordinary because you are extraordinary. Fight on at your own pace. No one worth listening to is going to rush you along, and that includes your own mind. Be patient with yourself. Enlist others. Persevere.

You may be bleeding, but you are unshakable.

You are beloved. 

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Emmie Arnold

Emmie Arnold is a follower of Jesus, survivor and thriver, graduate student of divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary, blogger at Illness to Wellness, musician, photographer, traveler, goofball, and optimist.

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