Suffering doesn’t have tact. For some reason, though we’d like to think otherwise, the holidays are not immune to sorrow, which makes facing them--for those who suffer serious losses--all the more difficult.
For years I have thought about those who have touched my life who have suffered through death and loss when everyone around them celebrates something joyful, mostly because I have come to know what this burden is like, and partially because I have always felt a pang in my heart for stories like that of my mother-in-law, who lost her 25 year old daughter to leukemia, and nursed her through the grueling chemo come holiday or not. For people like her, the world falls apart a little bit, and trying to piece together anything of a celebration becomes an Olympic feat. She finds great joy now in her grandchildren, simplicity in play with them, maybe some of that silver lining we want to look for, we force into platitude, but she’s come upon this honestly and genuinely.
As for me, I have experienced loss, particularly inexplicable loss, on or near holidays that gave some meaning, however painful, in context. I’ve talked about this before--and find myself talking about it again: miscarriage.
My first was at Christmas, the worst of it during Christmas Eve. A completely heart changing thing, put in the context of the Christ-child born. Of the hope that brings.
The second was on Good Friday--THE day Christians commemorate suffering which has meaning.
My third comes now, as Thanksgiving approaches. At eight or nine weeks, during an ultrasound, my technician pronounced to me that the baby had no heartbeat, and that she was so sorry. The sound went out of my ears, and I only remember covering my face, fumbling. Marching on through the mundane of life--grading and laundry and cooking.
Since then I have been waiting in the completion of this death, this loss, in the midst of a season of anticipation, one of gratitude, and I can find no gratitude for this loss. I am seeking the silver lining, trying to understand this, to which everyone can only say there is no fault, nothing that could be done, nothing to conclude. No closure.
I can find grace in the little things: the way Isabella’s little spirit cheers me, the way my husband cares for me, supports me, knows and understands this loss, feels it himself. I pray those who, like me, have lost loved ones, suffer through illness, or had an experience similar to mine, have such souls in their lives, people who will share the burden, who will give it meaning insofar as love can give meaning to death.
But I, like many who do suffer when people gather to share a feast or string lights or prepare for a season of treats, know that the path is lonely, to some degree. We are better off sharing it, but I know there are many who go it alone, and because I know how excruciating the emotional side of this is, I can only pray for peace and sustenance for those who face some of life’s greatest fears. Even for those who have support, ultimately, the path past sorrow is single-file, and the only thing left to do is embrace it, to see what joys may be wrought from what seems like emptiness, a something from nothing miracle. I know it’s possible.
I await it.