Mind Matters — The Light and the Dark

When this column is published, it will be Christmas Eve. Not everyone celebrates this holiday, but even so, many cultures and faiths celebrate this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when we experience the most darkness. So all the various festivals of lights push against this darkness with the hope of both spiritual light and natural light returning to earth.

Christmas and holidays that are to bring families together are often fraught with difficulties. We may remember past holidays where an alcoholic parent may have toppled into the tree, or worse, gotten into a rage. Others may have grown up in divorced households or live in one now where the celebrations must be divided between households. Others may find this time of year especially difficult as they remember loved ones who have died.

It does not help to ignore our sad feelings at Christmas. In fact it is best to honor and acknowledge them in some way.

In truth, I am reflecting on my own sadness this holiday. This is the first year in a while that I have unearthed all the ornaments of the past Christmases: those made by my children as well as ornaments given to us by my mother, especially the ones with her grandchildren’s photos. I decided it was time to bequeath these precious gems to my children before I die. So I’ve been sorting and choosing who should get these ornaments so that they can start placing them on their own trees. There is sadness with this process: the passage of time is etched in these personal treasures.

As it is, this has been a monumental year of change for me and for my spouse. For thirty years we lived in Chadds Ford, so this Christmas in a new place marks both a beginning and an end.

Admittedly, I mourn the end of the Chadds Ford era, where our children were raised from the time they were five and seven. I miss the Sunoco station Christmas eve celebration, the lights of Longwood, the walks at Winterthur, the trains and trees at the Brandywine River Museum, Hank’s Place, our friends and neighbors. What a truly amazing place it has been to raise a family and have a private practice too.

Yes, therapists, whose trade is grief, mourn too. Yet I know I must honor my grief and keep reminding myself of the proverb I’ve said to others so many times: “When the heart grieves for what it has lost, the soul rejoices in what it has found.”

My soul already rejoices in my granddaughter. So I keep remembering—this is why I am here.