Y’all, the holidays are so weird. They’re just, like, a recipe for an absurdist disaster, all of the expectations we pile up at the end of the calendar year. Add in travel (bow howdy the airport security line is not necessarily the place to fall in love with humanity!), financial stress, the fact that we’re in a tridemic, winter weather (I am wearing two layers of everything in my house right now, including pants), and I am personally ready to call it a day, take a weed gummy, and eat my feelings.
I haven’t even thrown in the slow-relationship-death-cohabitation phenomenon that is my own current holiday situation. I know some of you have already done this, so I’m telling you what you already know, but, phew, this shit is HARD. Hard in a way I could not truly appreciate until now, having been in this committed partnership since I was nineteen years old. The grief is many layered: grief over what’s lost, grief over what has changed, grief about the person you thought you knew or loved or could count on, grief about the family you had built, the agreed-upon narrative whose origins you now puzzle over. There is grief over what transpired, what you did and did not do about it in response, how long it took you to realize that your relationship’s narrative no longer matched up with its reality and, perhaps worst of all, grief that the person you once felt so totally seen by no longer seems to see you as you are.
Grief is not new to me, having lost my dad very suddenly and at an early age, but this experience feels akin to landing on a different planet in the same solar system. Grief is a vast wilderness, I suppose, and everyone’s landscape is populated uniquely. That’s part of why grieving can be so damn lonely; you can talk about it, describe it, point at it, express your dread, your despair, but ultimately, grief is a solitary endeavor. We each walk through and with our grief alone.
At the same time, we are never the only ones engaged in the act of grieving, even as our individual grief is particular to us. We can always offer to accompany others as they journey through grief, sit and bear witness to the strange and painful communion that grieving demands. As any of us who have been granted such tenderness in such a primally raw time of life know, nothing makes a difference quite like presence given without expectation when you are so very badly in need of help. To have someone hold my hand as I make my way through a brand-new, daunting landscape is the greatest gift I have known.
What I’m saying is; in all of the hustle and bustle, remember to check on your people. Let the ones who are missing someone, or whose lives have been otherwise disrupted by unexpected or difficult change know that you are thinking of them. You don’t have to know exactly what to say—none of us do!—I simply try to remind myself that I’d prefer to say something over nothing and try to reach out in a way that does not oblige a response, sometimes even going so far as to spell that out (“Please don’t feel obligated to reply to me! If you heart this text, I’ll know it’s okay to send more.”)
Anyone who knows me knows that I love baby animal and baby human photos; folks will often text them to me or send them via Insta. In the past few difficult months, this seemingly simple gesture has often gotten me through the day, reminding me that I am not alone: I am thought of, I am loved, I am cared for, and there are precious and good things in this world that are my birthright as much as anyone else’s.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Amen.