The holiday bustle has begun. As Thanksgiving approaches, I ponder the season and a lump forms in my throat. I am grateful to be here and for the blessings of family and friends. But my heart aches with grief for those loved ones who are no longer with me. For our Thanksgiving family tradition, we gather in a circle and say a prayer. It saddens me to see that our circle decreases each year. The intention of this week’s column is to remind you that the holiday season may trigger a cycle of grief. As we give thanks, we battle the pain of grief and loss. You are not alone. Take the time you need.
In the past, I looked forward to the holidays. I anticipated the chatter and love that surrounded me at Thanksgiving gatherings. Christmas brought the same feelings. Now the memories of yesterday are lonely. I long for days gone by while admonishing myself for not appreciating the here and now. I am discovering that it is OK to feel nostalgic while being present in the moment. It is not a conundrum; it is living, loving, and losing.
Preparing myself for the onset of emotions is wearisome. Depression is cunning; it often arrives unannounced. Its longevity, magnitude, and devastation are oppressive. I believe you can relate. Depressive feelings can be exacerbated during the holiday season. Besides the reminders of loved ones, the change in weather wreaks havoc on my mental and physical health. Dusk comes too early, frigid temperatures and harsh conditions deter me from going out, and my level of pain increases.
The holiday season triggers feelings of uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Fear is difficult to confess to, and many of us are in denial of this basic human emotion. I wrote a post for Modern Day MS entitled “Trading Fear for Courage in the Fight of MS.” While I try to choose courage, fear must be faced. I dare to acknowledge the fear and not succumb to it.
I recall my life-changing moments and realize that many of them happened during the holidays. My second open-heart surgery happened days before Thanksgiving. My sister’s impending death loomed over that time of merriment. My MS diagnosis came soon after the holidays. Amid the celebrations, I was grieving for myself and my family. I was thankful and devastated at the same time. My life changed before my eyes.
I feel compelled to write on this topic because I believe that we often subscribe to a false representation of the holidays. When we are sad, we are led to believe that we are selfish, unappreciative, or nonbelieving. As a spiritual woman who stands in her truth, please know that my humanity does not deny or negate my faith. I am sad that my family circle has been broken. Gatherings are both beautiful and agonizing, reminders of what was and what is no longer.
As a woman with chronic illness, I accept that my life has changed. As an advocate, I am impassioned to share my message with anyone who identifies with my experience. As a survivor, I am hopeful and grateful for the opportunity to breathe. As a believer, I know I’ll see my loved ones again. So, as the holiday season approaches, I will smile, laugh, cry, and love my way through these days. I will cherish the precious memories, and they will sustain me. I am thankful that I have loved and mindful that loss is an extension and an expression of those people and things we have loved fiercely.
In closing, to anyone who needs to hear this, many of us walk this path. The holidays are not always a happy time. You don’t have to pretend. I encourage you to seek the blessings in your life and to take one day at a time. We can be thankful, sorrowful, courageous, frightened, and still have faith. I am thinking of you and giving thanks for what you’ve brought into my life.
“My emotions are my reality; you do not decide
If I am happy, laughing, or sorrowful
Or when you think I should cry.
If you really want to help me, close your eyes and say a prayer.
Reach out or just let me know
That for me you will be there.”
You are invited to subscribe to my website at www.teresawrightjohnson.com.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.