Joy in the Midst of Sadness

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The holiday season is here. Everywhere you turn there are decorations, beautiful lights, Christmas music, and poinsettias. The scent of pine, cinnamon, and freshly baked cookies fill the air. It’s the one time of year that people greet strangers saying “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” It’s a time to feel joyful, and many of us do.

But what about those who are grieving a loss, facing a serious illness, suffering from any circumstance that causes emotional pain? The reminders of the season cause even greater pain. I’ve been asked the question How do I find joy when my heart is breaking?

When I was depressed, and particularly sad at Christmas, my therapist would remind me that Christmas is one day out of the year. If you can just get through it, it will pass. At the time her words were helpful. I went through the motions making Christmas special for my family, secretly looking ahead when the focus on the holidays would be behind me.

I have a new thought for those who struggle through the holidays. The circumstances causing your emotional pain are real and will not go away because the holidays are here. When the New Year comes you will probably be dealing with the same circumstances. Instead of having the decorations, lights, music, and scents of the season be a reminder of your pain, could they provide you with a small beacon of light? Can you look at them as a sign of hope for the future? Can you allow them to bring you a glimpse of joy?

Part of the answer has to do with giving yourself permission to feel joy. It’s okay to feel joy or happiness in the midst of sadness. I understand that it isn’t easy. My therapist had to remind me of that thought many times in the six years we worked together. I used to think I was minimizing my abuse if I felt a moment of happiness, but what resulted was renewed strength to continue on my healing journey.

It’s like turning an itchy sweater inside-out. Instead of letting the holiday cause you greater pain; turn your thoughts around and allow it to bring you a moment of comfort. It’s worth a try. If your emotional pain is amplified by the evidence of the holiday season, turn that feeling inside out; let the joy around you be the joy within you. Give yourself permission and perhaps from that joy you too will receive renewed strength.

 “May all beings learn how to nourish themselves with joy each day.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Nourish yourself with joy and hope this holiday season.

Best wishes to all, Roberta

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