The holidays. Ah, the holidays. Shopping lists. To do lists. Not enough time in the day. Not enough days in the week. Then there’s the other part. The sleeping in, the wearing pjs for two weeks, the not knowing what day it is, the too much coffee and no alarm clocks part. That’s a great part. Yes, the holidays mean all of those things. We’re supposed to focus on joy and be grateful for our time with loved ones. We’re hopeful for new beginnings as we bring in a new year. Yes, that’s what the holidays are about. But for some, it’s different. For some, there’s more.

There are the lists, the stress, the rushing around. The pjs, the coffee, the downtime. The joy, the love and the gratitude.  

And then, there’s the empty seat at the table.  

The seat that used to be the home of someone no longer here. The seat everyone looks at knowingly.  Sometimes that seat is filled with memories and stories to be shared and retold that fill hearts and bring warmth. Sometimes that seat is the elephant in the room that brings a feeling of emptiness and loss. That’s the seat at my table. That silent air that surrounds everyone as we pretend to be okay with the fact that he’s no longer here.

This will be year three of staring at that empty seat. Three years of being surrounded by a host of people, none of which have the slightest clue what it all feels like to you. Simply because they can’t. Grief is so painfully personal that even two people grieving the loss of the same person cannot even begin to fathom what that feels like for the other. 

Is this a time for us to grateful for the time we had with that person? Absolutely. But so is every day. Grief doesn’t care. Is this a time to share happy stories and remember every single perfect moment you had together with so much clarity it’s like it happened yesterday?  Yes, it is. But again, so is every day. And again, grief doesn’t care.

So many people struggle with this idea that we must keep a brave face for the sake of others, especially during the holidays.  We must mask our sadness because we have so much to be grateful for. We must smile and remember all of the memories and that is supposed to help in some way. But the reality for so many, is that sometimes the absence of that one person is so loud, so overbearing, that there is no room to feel any other way but heartbroken. Sometimes, the only thing you can focus on is the empty seat at the table. 

And that’s okay.

For anyone needing permission to grieve this holiday season…here it is, you have it.  And it’s allowed to look however you need it to look.  Do what you need to do. Grief is forever. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes it quiet. Sometimes it’s a wave that completely drowns you, sometimes it’s a manageable tread near the shore. Wherever your heart is right now, trust it’s allowed to be there, especially now, especially during the holidays. Grab hold of a tiny piece of hope, of peace, a moment of trust in the universe that all will be okay. Don’t let go until you need to.

The holidays. The empty seat at the table. Loss. Love.

That empty seat at the table means a whole lot of love was shared.  Hold on to that. Because isn’t that what the holidays are about?

The Empty Seat at the Table

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