Death and heartbreak are real reasons that keep us from experiencing joy during the holiday season. The gut-wrenching emotions, the confusion, the bitterness, the need, the unknown are all so real, so painful and so present in our ever-waking thoughts.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “When you love someone or miss someone, you experience an inner anguish.” But what if I told you this inner anguish can be the best avenue you have to reconnect with your lost love?
Nouwen continued, “When the place where God dwells in you is intimately connected with the place where God dwells in the other, the absence of the other person is not destructive. On the contrary, it challenges you to enter more deeply into communion with God, the source of all unity and communion among people.”
In other words, your anguish can lead you to God, which opens up deep places within you to experience deep communion with those you love.
What this might look like is that you start seeing and feeling the presence of those you have loved and lost. You see them in the faces of strangers in the grocery store. You feel their presence at the kitchen table while eating your breakfast cereal. You hear them in the laughter of others at a coffee shop. When you are connected to God, your soul opens to what Richard Rohr calls “deep love.”
“Rather than trying to cast your pain aside, enter into it.”
So, amid all the smiles and laughter, if you’re grieving this Christmas, it’s OK. Your anguish has a role to play. If you let it, that pain can lead you to remembrance, which leads you to hope, which leads you into communion with God, which leads you back to the presence of the one you love.
In other words, the grief we experience from death or absence calls us to a deeper knowledge of God’s love. And God’s love is what we need to reveal the presence of the other.
Think about it like this: When you grieve and allow God to grieve with you, the God in you (deep love) speaks to the God in the other. Nouwen calls this “deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.”
Our deep inner self is spiritually connected with the ones we have lost. Our relationship with God is our “deep,” and it connects with our love’s “deep,” even beyond this life.
If you are grieving this Christmas, embrace your anguish. Let God into your pain. This may seem backwards at first, but it works.
Rather than trying to cast your pain aside, enter into it. Don’t lock it away; open yourself to it. Walk through it; for when you do, you meet your true self who is constantly in communion with God . . . which connects you to the one you lost . . . which helps you never forget.
No matter how dark your pain feels, no matter how depressed you get this Christmas, if you travel through your pain, you will find God’s light. God’s light always outshines the darkness, and even the deepest darkness cannot overcome it.