By Nicole Zasowski, MS, LMFT
For many, the holiday season evokes joy and warmth as we gather with loved ones around delicious food and festive celebration. The holidays are a time when we are reminded of what really matters. We pause and take time to connect with family and dear friends in our community. The glow of the season is palpable and anticipated all year long.
For others, the holidays are more of a reminder of what has been lost, remembering loved ones who have passed. Some find themselves grieving what they wish to be different but cannot change. Instead of joy, the season is marked by feelings of loss and longing.
Last year, I found it difficult to connect to the sparkle and celebration of the holiday season. After struggling with pregnancy loss and a long period of waiting, sitting with questions that didn’t have answers, I found it difficult to see the light in the midst of my loss. Like many who find themselves in pain this time of year, I could connect to the yearning, but I couldn’t access the joy.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t looking for it. I tried to access joy by relying on my old securities – behaviors that I thought would make me feel better, but never seemed to work. I tried controlling the situation, thinking that I might feel better if I could just find the right answers. I tried performing, hoping that if I could prove I had learned from my pain, perhaps my circumstances would change. I tried not to feel the pain, believing that I could somehow float above my reality without having to face the ways in which I was suffering. And none of it worked. All of my familiar touch points of security failed me. The tactics I had relied on for years to make me feel loved and safe were exposed as frauds in my pain and only left me wanting.
As a person of faith in the Christian story, I found myself experiencing the season of Advent in a new way – a season characterized by longing and expectation. For perhaps the very first time, I understood the gift of a season that means, “to draw near.” Not only was I struck by the message of grace in God sending his son to earth, but I was also touched by the method in Christ’s coming. He came near as a humble baby boy, drawing close to our human experience, coming close to our pain and suffering.
In the midst of feeling great longing during the holiday season, I realized that my loss had given me open hands to receive the gift of companionship with a God that knows my hurt and is close to my pain – the greatest gift. In losing the securities I thought I wanted, I found the one thing I need in God’s constant presence.
This year, I am grateful and overjoyed to be expecting a baby boy. Many tell me that there is nothing that will teach me and grow me more than becoming a parent and I am confident that come late February when this baby arrives, I will have a lot to learn as a new mom. I know that this baby will teach me about myself in ways I couldn’t have imagined. But my bold prayer is that I never forget what this baby boy has taught me already: that our hope is never found in the good life. Rather, our hope is always found in the gift of a God who is with us in all circumstances.
I don’t know what joys or troubles you carry this holiday season. But my hope for each of us this December is that when we do experience disappointment or heartache, may we all have open hands to receive God’s presence in a new way.