With the approach of Easter, I was thinking about how religious holidays in particular bring back memories of the loved ones we have lost over the years. Along with the natural joy of the occasions, a great deal of sentiment is attached to the celebration of Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Personally, I have to rationalize Mothers and Fathers Days too, for crying out loud. Some of that sentiment is not altogether without mixed emotions.
I know a lot of people who struggle with their emotions at these times of year. It has to be difficult especially for those who have lost close friends and relatives and certain happy times are gone forever. Likewise for those dealing with serious health problems or the loss of employment and financial woes, it is equally difficult to capture the true spirit of the season.
So what can they do? What can any of us do?
To answer that question I turn to Janice Badger Nelson, a hospice nurse RN, wife, mother, volunteer and writer.
"I don't blame people who have mixed feelings about coping with special occasions. The holidays are tough enough without the awful and tragic realities of life," she writes. "I am so grateful for the privilege I have to take care of so many during difficult periods in their lives. They have taught me so much and I am forever grateful," To honor those of whom she speaks, Janice shares those lessons... "Death has so much to teach us about life," she contends.
On the subject of death affecting one's ability to celebrate special dates and occasions, she offers the following:
"The only thing we can do is to get through each day as best we can. Some will decide to bow out (of observing the day) and just stay home for a quiet meal. Others will go to church or attend family get togethers, stealing themselves for the inevitable question, "So, how are you doing?" Most people dread that question. It is funny how most people only ask that of folks they know have had a rough time. If you have won a million dollars in a lottery, no one really wants to know about that. And when you verbalize your woes, many chime in with their own,"
So, what is the best thing to do? Drop out of society for a period? Still participate but sit quietly, maybe leave early? Get inebriated?
"I guess the best thing to do is what feels right," Janice suggests. "...Not for your mother or sister or friends. So what if they will be disappointed? They will surely get over it, but don't expect them to understand because they won't."
Everyone experiences their reality differently," she adds.
"Allow yourself to indulge in your own whims and tell others that this is how you best cope with the unfortunate event that has occurred. Ask them to forgive you, but explain this is how you are protecting your heart. Perhaps they will understand if you put it that way."
We all want happiness on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We want free, light-hearted spirits. We want them for ourselves, our loved ones, our kids. We have a picture in our minds of how they should look and feel. Of how everyone should act. But they rarely turn out that way and many times we find ourselves sadly disappointed. Janice advocates embracing tradition, but letting go of expectations. "Or create new tradition -- one that allows you to include a relative that is no longer here, or one that celebrates new beginnings. Let go of the expectations of others and create something new for yourself."
Special holidays are fraught with much emotion and memories. There is also much associated work and preparation, much of it joyful, but it doesn't always come easy. So, if you feel sad this Easter, embrace the sadness. Don't pretend it does not exist. And if people do ask the inevitable question, "How are you doing?" love yourself enough to answer honestly...And let it go at that.
Be thankful for your life and show it. You can be "catching" in a good way.