As we struggled to take in the news this week that Australians and others on holiday in New Zealand had lost their lives in an unexpected volcanic eruption, our Prime Minister Scott Morrison made reference to, “a time of great innocence and joy [being] interrupted by the horror of that eruption…”
There is something ‘especially hard to bear’ as poet Helen Jesty says in her poem about ‘disappointments in December’.
December is for a difficult diagnosis as well as dreaming of a white Christmas.
December is for divorce as well as decorations.
December is for death and dying as well as discos and dancing.
December is for distances that separate us from people,
even those in the same room.
Disappointments in December are especially hard to bear.
Sometimes the light no longer shines in the darkness.
Dig down deeper than the tinsel to the place where hope is found.
Maybe, just maybe, the flickering flame with be fanned gently into fire.
Experiencing loss at any time is challenging, whether through the death of a loved one, separation or divorce, unemployment or other significant life change, but at Christmas and during other holiday periods, the pain and stress caused by these losses can be even more intense. And it can be very lonely to have these feelings amid all the celebrating of the season; the parties, the singing, and the constant proclamation of “Joy, joy, joy!”
Having plans in place for managing how you are feeling can make a difference. Self-care is important as well as maintaining your regular rituals; getting adequate sleep and rest, eating healthy meals or going for a walk. Sometimes, in the busyness of the season, we skip these rituals when this may be the time when we need them most.
It may also be helpful to establish new rituals. We need to acknowledge that when we experience loss, we grieve. Grief is normal. Grief is universal, and, at the same time, grief is very personal.
On Wednesday night, we gathered at Wesley Uniting for a ‘Blue Christmas Service’, a time of remembering our losses before God. It was a beautiful service and we (the ministers of the churches involved) hope to do it again in December next year.
In the foyer today there are also resource sheets on ‘Managing Life’s Transitions’ produced by Good Grief and MacKillop Family Services and flyers from the ACT Recovery College which offers free courses in mental health, recovery, resilience and wellbeing. Please feel free to take some.
In what can be a challenging season, may we be sensitive to our own needs and the needs of others, and knowing that our God, Immanuel, has come to be with us, may we hold onto hope.