Hope is Never Lost by Dona Murphy

I had a client who was very anxious about the development of a relationship say to me, “I know you’re always honest with me. I just don’t want to have false hope.” That set me back a little – to me, hope is never “false” at least not as I define hope. Hope is dynamic and evolving.

Hope is not an attachment to a specific outcome to the exclusion of all other possibilities.

I watched a beloved relative of mine battle cancer for several years. His hopes and ours – our desires – changed form and expression as circumstances changed. Life happened. First we hoped for his disease to go into full remission. Then we hoped for a good quality of life for as long as possible, and finally we hoped for a peaceful death with dignity.

None of those hopes were false.

The false belief that only one person, situation or outcome is the best and most desirable leads us to give up hope. The belief that only one specific thing will make us happy can render a situation hopeless.  We mistake our preferences which are temporary and mutable as the absolute best thing for us.

We forget that our conscious, ego-minds operate from a limited perspective. We lack objectivity. Our conscious minds see through a narrow filter. We have the power to create and influence our circumstances. We define our own experiences.  But we forget that we are neither all-knowing nor all-powerful. Our ego-minds need and want control. We forget that we are co-creators. The divine spark of creative power within us doesn’t guarantee lives free of pain and loss. Pain and pleasure, gain and loss, happiness and sadness are the birthright of every life.

The Universe (the All-Mind) contains and resolves our experiences through unity, oneness, wholeness.

Another way we fall into error is that sometimes we don’t realize all the possibilities that are open to us. If anything most of us make the mistake of dreaming too small; we don’t ask for or expect too much, but too little. We cheat ourselves by fixating on something that might represent a fraction of all that could be ours. What we long for may not serve our highest good. It might disappoint us rather than bringing us the joy and fulfillment we desire. Having hope allows us to receive in ways that can far exceed our expectations.

It’s not hope that is false, it’s the limits we impose either on ourselves or on the Universe. There are limits not to what we can desire or hope for but to what we can control. The Universe is limitless. All we need is to gratefully and graciously receive. Falsehoods eliminated.

I know these things: “What is yours will not pass you by” (anonymous) and “What you’re seeking is seeking you” (Wayne Dyer).

You will hope. If you claim your desire knowing that its own fulfillment is contained within it, you will not hope in vain. Hope is asking for what you desire and then opening yourself to receive what the Universe gives you. If you will hope, you will find your desires fulfilled. Hope is an invitation to believe and trust. Believe that you are part of a limitless, loving Universe. Trust that the Universe always provides exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

If you will, hope.

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.

Happy New Year from Modern Creative Life

Happy New Year from all of us at Modern Creative Life.

A new year is like a blank page or a fresh canvas. It’s our opportunity to declare our intentions for the future (because resolutions never work) and to bid a fond goodbye to the things of the past that no longer serve us. It’s not just a fresh calendar page, but a whole, new calendar.

To open the new year, we’re sharing some of our favorite quotations about hope, wonder, and possibility.

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
~Alfred Tennyson

“Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source – a Sower of Dreams – just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.”
~Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Hope and faith flower from the cheerful seeds of the old year to the sprouting garden of the new year’s dawn.”
–Terri Guillemets

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
~Neil Gaiman

“A Happy New Year! There is a glow of cheer and optimism in the very words “New Year.” The old year, with its anxieties and worries, is over. It too brought happy days and sunshine, and in memory we must cherish the bright places.”
~May Louise Crane

May the hope and wonder of the holiday season carry you through the New Year and beyond.

The Staff of Modern Creative Life

Image: Edd Sowden for Flickr Creative Commons

Dear Hope in the Year to Come

I have to confess, Dear Hope, that there were times this last year that my faith in you slipped. When we began 2017 together, I held out such desire that it would be a healthy and peaceful year for everyone I loved, yet I witnessed such suffering, loss, and unhappiness, that at times I wondered if you were anywhere to be found.

Especially when I lost my dear daddy and spent much of the last year lost in the valley of grief.

When I take a step back, though, and look at the tiny moments of grace and love through every challenge. I just needed to be reminded, my dear Hope, that you were always there on the edge of things, rooting for me.

Like take my father, for instance. I never wanted to lose him, yet I couldn’t stand to see him suffering. His once active life had shrunk to the four walls of his home, more of an existence rather than thriving. And that, my dearest, is no way to live now, is it?

I was reminded, too, dearest hope, that when my belief in you wavered, others reminded me of you. Dear friends held me in love across the miles and through a million acts of kindness. I guess that’s what did it for me, Hope, to be reminded that in every smile, tough, and the smallest kind gestures, that you are never lost.

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
― Laini Taylor

When it comes to moving into a new year, I thought it would be helpful to spell out some of my desires so that during the times my faith is shaken in your constant state of being, dear Hope, I can find you in the most infinitesimal of moments. Because when I trust that you’re there, you always shine through.

First of all, Dear, Hope, I’d love to go the whole year without losing anyone else I love. No, I don’t want to witness the suffering of others, so maybe while we’re on the subject, I guess the deepest part of that desire, dear Hope, is that everyone thrives in the best ways possible.

So, no more loss for those I love. Or, honestly, I don’t want anyone I love to have to travel through the valley of grief.

Health, dear Hope, is high on the list. Please give me the discipline, dear Hope, to  do the work I need to do to ensure I stay healthy. Please give those I know and love the wherewithal to ensure they thrive in their lives by staying healthy, both physically and mentally.

We should probably talk about spiritual health while we’re having this conversation, dear Hope. The surest path to spiritual enlightenment, dear Hope, is through art making. So, please, dear Hope, while we’re talking about allowing you to show us the magic that exists in the world, can you let the Muses dance on the edges of everyone I know and love and should know? We are all blessed no matter if we are the ones making art or partaking of art.

There are so many other desires on the edges of my brain, dear Hope, yet I also know that when it comes to keeping faith in you, holding these core desires at the center of my being will allow me to see you in every face I come upon, whether it’s in real time or across the digital ether.

When my faith in you lags, darling Hope, may you always remind me that you are always waiting to work your magic.

With all my love and gratitude,

Debra

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A Cinderella Story by Ruth Coe Chambers

I’ve always felt my childhood was marred because we didn’t have a library in our town. We had beaches with sand as white as sugar, water from the Gulf of Mexico that touched places we might never see. But no books. I longed for a well-stocked library, but all I had was hope that a family would move to our small town and bring books with them. My family didn’t seem to find a lack of books something to worry about. Mama had her crocheting and soap operas on the radio, Daddy had hunting and fishing when he wasn’t busy protecting us as he sported his deputy sheriff badge, and my dentist uncle brought home pulp fiction detective magazines that Mama had forbidden me to touch.

Me? Nothing filled that void for me but hope. Still, I started school without books and discovered something more wonderful than the colored chalk our teacher used to draw a calendar of September. She had a book! I would eventually learn that all the teachers had books, but just starting school, I believed pretty Mrs. Howell was the only one who owned one and not just any book, but one called Cinderella. I’d never heard a name so beautiful. On the cover was a young woman as beautiful as her name, dressed in a long, yellow bouffant dress cascading with ruffles and bows and all things wonderful.

Each day Mrs. Howell read a  little of Cinderella to us, and I suppose she knew we were hungry for books because every Friday one person from a list she kept in her desk would be allowed to take Cinderella home for the weekend. I thought my Friday would never arrive. How the time dragged until the day I ran to her desk after school and told her it was my turn to take Cinderella home. She looked at me and said quite simply, “Oh, Ruth, it’s lost. I don’t have it any more.” Her eyes weren’t red from weeping, she didn’t pound the floor with her fists. An important part of her world had obviously been stolen, and she appeared unconcerned about it. I hoped I never took anything of beauty for granted. I realized in that moment, even though I was only six years old, that I still had hope, and no one could ever steal it or the wonder it brought me.

I continued going to people who moved into town to see if they brought any books with them. That was how I came to read my first novel, A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter. I identified with the girl though I didn’t possess the courage she did in collecting specimens from a swamp. I could, however, feel her shame in having to carry her lunch to school in a syrup bucket.

I was growing older, and when my parents realized I could read, they knew they would have to be more careful and keep their secrets hidden. One they kept hidden in plain sight. I had found a need for hope beyond books. I prayed that God would not let Mama turn out to be my stepmother.

It was my reading that had uncovered their secret. When I was very young, they let me see snapshots with writing on the backs. The woman had my name, and she stood with Daddy. I knew then why a room grew quiet when I entered it. Things fell into place and I knew who she was, even her name. Hope dimmed and my fate was sealed when a girl at school said one day, “She isn’t your real mother, is she?” I didn’t want a stepmother and ran, ran until my side hurt, but I couldn’t escape my stepmother.

I realized my parents didn’t want me to know who Mama really was so I began the long years of protecting them from my awakening. It was a heavy burden for a child to carry. Hope had been stolen after all, and I was left with guilt. Should I love the woman with my name, the woman who carried me under her heart, or the woman who cared for me through the measles and chicken pox and all the childhood illnesses? It was a heavy burden, even for a teenager, and the whispers of stepmother never left me.

I was an adult when I came to realize that I still had hope after all. Where would I have been without my escape through writing, my hope for making a contribution? I had to make my time on earth count. I had to repay a debt to a woman with my name. I was a Cinderella child. I had a stepmother who was sometimes wicked, but I saw that both Cinderella and I not only had stepmothers, but also hope in a glass slipper or a published book. Thinking of all I had written, of the stories, essays, plays and novels, I wondered if they would have been written had I not used them as a way of running until my side didn’t ache any more. Oh, the wonder of it all. Both my mothers, they were the wonder all along, never once calling me a stepchild.

About the Author: Ruth Coe Chambers

Ruth Coe Chambers takes pride in her Florida panhandle roots and her hometown of Port St. Joe has inspired much of her writing.

She is indebted to the creative writing classes at the University of South Florida where she found her “voice” and began writing literary fiction. Listed in the Who’s Who of American Women. She has recently republished one novel, and published it’s sequel, and has written two award-winning plays. She is currently working on the third novel in her Bay Harbor Trilogy. She has two daughters and lives with her husband and one very spoiled Cairn terrier in Neptune Beach, Florida.

Her two earlier novels include The Chinaberry Album and Heat Lightening.

 

Through the Lens: on Woodworking by Keva Bartnick

Through the Lens

There has always been an artist that has lived inside of me. From the first moment I drew breath there has always been one. Maybe, it stems from past life experiences, maybe something else quite different. One can never be 100% certain where the muse comes from within.

Some chalk up creativity as the soul speaking magic out into the world. I hear it as a small voice inside my heart, whispering, “that’s it…that’s the one.”

I have found Pinterest to be of great help and influence to which project I’d like to tackle next. I find it a great repository for great ideas, and great projects a like.

My husband is a wonderful help as well. Where I lack, he is right there next to me offering up advice, thoughts, suggestions, and love. He is a muse all in of himself. Many a day he looks at me with a sideways grin, it’s like he knows…and says, “what’s next?”

I have a great board of projects, ideas, things I’d like to accomplish; small and large alike. I have heard many a suggestion that Pinterest makes people, woman especially, feel that they need to do more, be more. Perfection is something that they try hard to attain. I’ve never looked or wanted for perfection. Just something to sink my teeth into, to reach my muse, to touch that part inside my heart that speaks to my soul.

I have worked hard over my 40 years to try all the artistic outlets that have spoken to me. Pencil drawings, charcoals, paint, ceramics, printmaking, sewing, sculpture, metalsmithing, weaving, and paper mache.

 

Woodworking has become my newest passion. I find so much wonder in it. I’ve always wanted to make furniture. In college I took a black smithing class and made a papison chair out of half round mild steel. I had so much hope at the beginning of the project, and was overjoyed at its completion. There is something to be said for handmade pieces made from the heart.

We recently repainted our foyer. It reminded me of what it would be like to paint with liquid cheddar cheese. I’m a huge Packer fan so the coloring seemed to fit well with football season on the way. I’d also been looking at gallery walls as well. Seeing how everyone’s personal style gets reflected on a blank canvas like that of a long wall.

I find that looking at peoples personal style you can learn a lot about how eclectic their style can be. How far off the beaten path they like to walk, how much they like to express themselves out in the open.

I started this project with the idea that I could complete it from start to finish all by myself. With all things in life I have found that we are never alone. At least, I am never truly alone. I was mistaken to think that if I brought this project up to my husband he’d let me do it all on my own. It was even more foolish to show it to my wonderful father-in-law. Before I knew it this had become a group effort full of wonder and hope for what it would become.

My father-in-law with his woodworking shop in his basement took all the measurements. He cut all the pieces. He worked out everything I would need to put my puzzle together. To make my project work he did what he could to help; to be a part of it all. My husband offered support. Over the weeks our project slowly came together. In the end we were all the closer for it.

We now have a piece that we love, it hangs in our foyer. A testament to a group effort, to our fortitude to create something beautiful. Our wonder at what our project could become, and our budding hope that we’ll be building together again soon.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

She can be found at Taleoftwofeathers.com

Merry Christmas, Darling

You can’t help know that Christmas is nigh as you if  you have an email address or dare venture into any stores. Outside the commercial side of the season – and the religious ones – we dive into all the ways we can use our innate creativity to add an extra edge of wonder to the season – from decking our halls to baking cookies and creating beautiful meals. From watching holiday movies to humming along with the sounds of the season.

Today, my dear, is finally the day that Christmas has arrived and hopefully you can take a deep breath and honor the beauty of the season. How the edges of wonder invite us into our own lives, how the call for hope reminds us that we are always within reach of it.

No matter how you celebrate – or even if you ignore it all  – know that at the core of the day, it’s a call to dig into all the ways in which we can create the kind of life we desire to lead.  In celebration of this holiday, we won’t be offering you a new poem, story, or essay, but a collection of a dozen gems of wisdom Christmas and Holy Days – of the tenderness of sacred wonder in the air.

 “Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
–Charles Dickens

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
― Calvin Coolidge

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”
― Bob Hope

“The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood.”
― Richard Paul Evans

“A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; It makes no noise at all, But softly gives itself away; While quite unselfish, it grows small.”
― Eva K. Logue

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
― Norman Vincent Peale

“Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.”
― Charlotte Carpenter

“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”
–Alexander Smith

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
― Hamilton Wright Mabie

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”
― Bob Hope

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We hope find a reason to hope, a moment of wonder, and always return to the heart of your sacred creativity. We are so honored to witness the ways in which you you honor your beautiful heart, follow your desires, and celebrate your creative life.

With love from our creative table to yours.
The Staff of Modern Creative Life

Sunday Salon: The Gift of Art

It’s that time of year, the countdown to the holidays. People hustle and bustle, make lists, check them once, twice, thrice. Amazon’s server is on fire with orders flying in from around the world.  If you haven’t finished your shopping by now, well – you’re in a bit of pickle, aren’t you?

Photo Credit: Ben White for Upsplash

For quite a few years I’ve eschewed the whole holiday shopping enterprise. My husband and I are at the stage where we don’t need or want much of anything, and if we do, we get it for ourselves. We might treat ourselves to a concert or dinner out, maybe a little trip somewhere. But buying more “stuff” for each other has lost its charm. As one of my elderly friends put it: “If I can’t eat it, read it, or go to it, I don’t want it.”

But in these often troubled times, when materialism and greed run rampant throughout our society, there is one still one gift well worth investing time and money to give.

The Gift of Art.

Sadly, this gift is not valued highly in the modern world. Artists struggle for recognition, for funding, for space to do their work. When budgets need cutting, the arts are the first place to point the knife.

For the past three weekends, I’ve been out performing with my group, Classical Bells. We’ve watched our audiences come in tired and cold, stamping snow from their boots, looking weary and downhearted. If we do our job well, the music helps thaw those icy places in their lives and even provides a few moments of transcendence from the mundane problems of daily living so they go back into the world with a quieter, softer heart.

“Every piece of art, every performance, is a state-of-the soul address,” wrote poet Jane Kenyon. “The love of the absolute beauty of art, the longing for the well-being of the planet and all its creature, the awe we feel in the face of life and death, the delights of the inward eye and inward ear, the understanding and nurture of the soul – these are the gifts of art.”

And it’s not only the recipient but also the maker of art benefits from this gift. This has been a horrible week for me. Our little dog Molly died unexpectedly Monday, just five months after we lost her brother, Magic. I grieve mightily for these precious companions of my home and heart. But the hours I spend playing music are a balm for that ache, directing my focus away from sadness and toward the task of creating something beautiful.

“Artists report on the inner life,” Kenyon continues, and the inner life distinguishes us from centipedes.” The inner life – our imagination, our compassion, our spiritual awareness – these are the places art touches in us. Art allows us to glimpse something larger than ourselves, that “awe in the face of life and death” as Kenyon put it. We ignore our inner life at our peril, Kenyon warns, for when we do, we “become capable of extreme cruelty and destruction.”

The evidence of that abounds in the world right now, doesn’t it? So this holiday, commit yourself to making art and sharing it widely with young and old. If you’re a writer, volunteer at a local library to do a reading or host a workshop. If you paint, set up your easel in a public place and invite questions and comments. If you’re a musician, take your instrument or your voice to a hospital, a nursing home, your neighborhood coffee shop. If you knit, make scarves and socks to pass out to the homeless.

The possibilities for gifting are endless.

And the gift of art is PRICELESS.

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan. She is the author of the books Life in General, and Life Goes On, personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

A Quiet Thrill by Michelle GD

I am like a child again when the meteorologists call for snow.   Looking out the window frequently, watching the sky, holding my breath just the tiniest bit.  Did it start yet?  Is it coming?  I remember being thrilled by snow as a child.  I am still thrilled (perhaps more?) as an adult.

With snow come challenges of slippery roads and cancellations.  As I child, I cared only of the latter; as an adult, I must consider both.  Still, I eagerly await the first flakes.  Sometimes the birches blow in the wind; sometimes they stand like statues.  Sometimes the sky seems an even wash of grey; sometimes, if I look closely enough, I see darker greys and lighter greys and greys in between.  Always, I feel like the world at my feet is in the midst of some pause.  Or maybe it’s just me.

As I wait for the snow, I am surely in the pause.  I am present and attentive.  I feel alive.  I watch excitedly for changes in the sky and on the ground.  I am in awe once those changes arrive.  The blanket of white laid upon the ground, the hush accompanying the laying of that blanket.

I remember that hush as a child.  For a few years, we lived in upstate New York, just south of the Canadian border.  We got a lot of snow there; I had many opportunities to step into that hush.  Now, my family of four lives in Virginia, and we don’t experience the frequency or amount of snow I enjoyed in those childhood years.  But we do get snow; I do step into the hush.  And every time I step into the hush, my shoulders drop a little lower, and my eyes widen in wonder.

The beauty is not a surprise to me.  And yet, every time it snows…it surprises me.  It delights me, softens me.  Every time it snows, I step into the pause.  I am present and attentive and alive.  And isn’t this what I continually practice, no matter the season?  The presence, the attention, the alive-ness?

This time of year is busy for many of us.  We are celebrating and decorating and making merry.  Likely, we are also reflecting on a calendar year about to close, and preparing to open another.  It’s a time of year full with work outside ourselves (all that merry-making); it’s also full with work inside ourselves (all that reflecting).  It’s a time of year filled with so much.

Just the other day, it snowed.  I was grateful for Nature’s invitation; she called me in, and I responded.  I stepped into her pause, I felt her hush.  She beautified my world that was already beautiful, and I like that she didn’t out-do herself…she was humble and just-right.  I left the busyness and merry-making of the house, and walked through the falling snow with my kids.  We laughed, and we were silent.  I felt snowflakes on my eyelashes, and watched flakes rest but a moment on the lashes of my kids…each snowflake a gift.  Each one an invitation to pause, to notice, to be a little bit amazed.

There’s something in that pause, that being a little bit amazed.  There is a certain release I feel, as if I lie back and the world catches me and holds me.  Though I must do my part:  I must, on occasion, allow my shoulders to drop; I must allow my eyes to widen in wonder. I must anticipate, and I must receive.  I must allow myself to lie back and be held by the beauty of this world.

Now do you understand why a forecast of snow thrills me to my core?

About the Author: Michelle GD

Michelle GD is an artist living in Virginia.  Using writing and photography as forms of meditation, she explores the connections between the beautiful and messy bits of life.  You can find her at MichelleGD.com.

The Puppies by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Cleaning house in her nightgown
Donna spots me on my morning walk,
leans out the door and yells,
“Hey, wanna see the babies?”
I do, of course .

We stand over the nursery,
gaze at the ten huddled scraps
of multi-colored poodle puppyhood,
barely four days old,
wearing teeny collars.

First time mama Paris
is surprisingly cool, supplies faucets
as needed to ten seeking mouths,
tolerates giants looming
and fingers poking at her children.

Donna coos, I try hard not to,
and grandpa Shadow keeps an eye on us all.
As he nudges my hand, black and white
stuffed toy in his mouth, Donna says,
“He wanted his own baby
so I bought him one.”

She looks down at her flowered gown
and bare feet, grimaces then says,
“Forgive the mess.”
I don’t see anything
but beautiful babies.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Instrumental: The Holiday Grieving Survival Kit by Jeanie Croope


It’s the season of hope and wonder, of parties and cookie and decking the halls. We are told to have a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah and we say the same in return.

And sometimes we are neither Merry nor Happy.

The winter holidays can be stressful even for those who love them and “Martha to the Max.” But for those experiencing grief and loss, the first winter holidays without someone they love, they can be especially challenging.

This year there will be many who have lost loved ones in fires and hurricanes, through accidents and illness. Add to that the loss of a home or a job and the holidays don’t seem so merry and bright. For many years I volunteered at a family grief center and clearly the winter holidays were the hardest time. If you are dealing specifically with grief or loss issues, these tips on getting through the holidays might be helpful. And if you are not currently on that grief journey, you may see some ways you can help someone who is.

Sometimes Tradition, Sometimes Not

A dear friend facing a challenging holidays said recently, “I’m dreading the traditional this year. The new experiences I am looking forward to, but the old ones — I don’t know.”

Too much food, too much stress, too much pressure and too little time. Add to it a major life change and the old-familiar may be a little too tough.

So, give yourself a break. I’d never advocate changing traditions that work, but consider trying something new. Good grief, even if you’re happy as a clam, try something new, whether it’s a cookie recipe or a change of venue! It may become a new tradition or maybe it’s just an event for this year to help shake things up in a good way.

You may see your best (and most unexpected) holiday concert ever. Enjoy a walk through a dazzling winter wonderland on a zoo walk. Sample far too many treats as you stroll through a holiday gallery walk. Go caroling for the first time since college. Watch “The Nutcracker” live or on video.

Consider a road trip. If being home is too hard, venture to a new place or accept the holiday invitation to spend it at the home of friends or relatives. It doesn’t have to be a permanent tradition, but it might make the first year under new circumstances a little easier.

And if your friend is grieving? Help out with a surprise meal of pasta, salad (in a bag makes it easy, if not exciting!) and some crusty bread. And if you can, join them. Dinner alone can be tough for the newly widowed.

Be willing to listen — to sadness, to memories, to fears for the future. And remember, loss can be complicated. Not everyone is sad for a death — they may be sad for what was and now can never be. Don’t assume you know how they feel. You might know how you think you would feel but everyone’s experience with a person who died is unique.

Welcome the Person Who Is No Longer With Us by Remembering

You might light a candle in someone’s honor — whether it is at the dinner table or privately. Honor the light they brought to your life. Or stop by the cemetery to lay a pine bough or some holly.

I have the “Dad” Christmas tree (with ornaments that reflect things he loved) and the “Mom” tree, with ornaments that were some of her favorites along with new ones that I know she’s love.

Try a helium balloon flight — write a note to the loved one, tie it to the string of the balloon, then let it go high in the air. This is especially meaningful for children. When I was volunteering in the grief center, the annual balloon launch was the “event of the year” and the kids and adults alike valued sending up their thoughts to their loved one.

If stitching is your thing, consider making ornaments from one of their clothing garments or jewelry or use something that was part of them as part of your holiday decorating. Or ask your crafty friend if they can make you something in the year ahead — a stuffed bear or tree ornaments, for example. This year my friend Suzanne gave me several necklaces of her mother’s, whom I knew and liked very much. She thought I might pass them on to charity. They are costume jewelry but that long strand of pearls and another necklace are now a beautiful beaded garland on one of my trees. The others will be given away but these memories of Nolda will remain on my tree for years to come.)

Do Something that Might Make You Feel Like You Are Making a Difference. 

It can be hard to give back when you feel you have nothing left to give, but volunteering doesn’t mean just working at an organized activity with a major time commitment. You may have an elderly neighbor who might not easily be able to wrap gifts for the family. A couple of gift

bags, some tissue and you’re good to go — you’ll make that person’s day and you’ll feel pretty great yourself. Park yourself in the lobby of the nursing home or assisted living site or in a room at your church after Sunday services, loaded with wrapping paper.

Often I do what I call my “Random Acts of Christmas” — chipping in $5 at the grocery cashier to go toward the order of the old man behind me, anonymously of course. Priming the meter or parking attendant with another dollar’s worth for the next user. An anonymous gift to someone who needs a lift. Once you start, it is really hard to stop.

Most of All, Be Gentle with Yourself

Remember, holidays can be tough on a good day. There are parties when you don’t feel like partying, a whole lot of sugar and butter, things to do, like shopping and wrapping and mailing — presumably with a deadline, and so much more. Sometimes it’s good to

go out, see friends, make merry. Sometimes that’s even very healing.

But there are other times when you just can’t. Don’t beat yourself up over it. People will understand. If the cards don’t get out, it’s not a crisis. If you can’t bear to write the holiday letter that covers your year, skip it and just send a card or an e-card.

Pick a few things to do — not everything. Talk it over with your kids (young and older, too) and let them know where you stand, and learn where they do. You can probably come to consensus.

As a friend, if you are headed to the store or the post office, ask if you can pick up groceries or stamps. Bring a tray of crudites instead of cookies, maybe with a light dip or cold shrimp and sauce. There are loads of ways you can help someone take care.

Remember, There IS Hope. And There IS Wonder.

It may feel impossible to find hope when things dark and sad. But it’s the time we need it most. And seeing the wonder of the world may just be an important part of the antidote. The twinkling lights, whether on your own tree or in a shop window. The smile on a child’s face. The grateful appreciation for an act of kindness. The quiet snowfall on Christmas Eve. The blanket of stars in an inky night sky or the dazzling pinks and lavenders of the perfect sunset. There is wonder in the love we have known, that great gift that carries us through.

 

And there is wonder in the cycle of life, of knowing that flowers will bloom, leaves will change into a glorious array of colors and snow will fall. The sun will rise and set and the world will spin its orbit. And with it comes the hope that next year will be a little kinder, a little easier, a little more settled.

I will not wish you a Happy Holiday — I’ll leave that to you, and it may be hard. But I will offer my wishes for peace and healing and the hope that you will find even just a wee bit of wonder to help you in your journey this season. May that star shine brightly to lead you into a new year of hope.

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes