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Resisting Change; Embracing Change

Change. It’s the time of year we embrace it. Change our weight. Change our attitude. Change our career path. We make resolutions, determined to be different in the New Year – to change.

Other changes we fiercely resist. Familiarity is a comfortable companion. While routine rules, different drools. We like status quo. But change, as they say, is inevitable.

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Death ushers in the most severe change to our lives. We may face financial changes. Housing changes. Widows may be ejected from couples groups. And be forced change friends.

While we struggle to manage the outward changes, our inward state of living has been upended. We felt secure. Now we feel unsafe. We felt needed, useful. Now we don’t know our purpose.

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I’m embracing changes this season. I think my internal desire to change, to do things differently in 2020, is being mirrored in the rooms of my house as I purge belongings and tidy up spaces.

I’ve experienced seasons, however, when I fought change with ferocity. I didn’t want to let go of my parents’ home. I loved sensing them there, among the belongings they left behind.

Change is difficult, and when it is forced upon us, it is unsettling. But I’ve found that the best time to change things that I want or need to change is to coordinate with the change that is being forced upon me. I know it sounds a little crazy. Add more change to change? Yes.

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The Longest Night of the Soul: Four Tips to Get Thru the Darkness

How do we survive the longest night of the soul? To whom or what can we turn? What hope is there to latch onto when our lives feel battered, damaged beyond repair?

I pondered the longest nights of my soul the morning of the literal longest night of the year, December 21st, in the Northern Hemisphere. On this day, the Winter Solstice, darkness envelops the Mid-South for more than 13 hours, while daylight consists of nearly 10 hours.

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The following date – that is, the day when the Earth begins to gain daylight rather than lose it – is of significance to me. It is the anniversary of my return home in 1993. I was wounded. My parents and their faithful love was exactly what I needed.

For four years, I had lived in Jackson, Miss., about 250 miles from where I grew up. I’d fallen in love for the first time and hoped to marry. My widowed boyfriend had other ideas. 

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4-Ingredient Recipe for Surviving Christmas Grief

As I tried to figure out how to put new life together after my parents’ death, I was tasked with figuring out what to do with their voluminous collection of cookbooks and recipes.

It was Christmastime when I got to them. I’d held onto their home eight years, and I was still sorting not only through their possessions but through my grief.

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I sat down and opened cookbook after cookbook, scanning for my father’s penciled notes beside recipes. He’d dated them and had jotted down the family’s reaction. A kind of a Siskel and Ebert thumbs up or down.

My mother, however, drew through ingredients and added others. What a treasure I had. My heart, however, focused not on this blessing but on the pain. We’d never share a meal again.

And then it occurred to me. Trying to find a “new normal” after a loved one’s death – whether during the holidays or any time of year – is a like following a recipe.

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Should We Avoid Grief at Christmas?

I hauled the boxes down from the attic, opened the lid and picked out one of the objects inside. It had belonged to my parents. I held it as if it may break, and then I caressed it. I smiled. And then I cried.

My mother and father felt so close.

And so far away.

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Why did I unpack this box? Was I cleaning out my dead parents’ home?

Or was I decorating for Christmas?

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Re-evaluating Old Grief with New Eyes

A dozen thoughts whirl around my head about my parents and my care-giving days as I navigate a new, temporary reality – being the one to receive care.

This reality is opening up an old chapter on my life that was filled with stress and grief. A chapter that I thought was behind me, fully processed.

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Grief works that way. The changing circumstances of life usher grief back into our lives, offering a new layer for us to process. We think we are done. We are not.

The trigger may be a new baby our parent did not meet. Or another death. Or a new home, husband or hobby. As life shifts, we wish our loved one was here to experience this new thing with us. To offer companionship, advice or comfort.

Instead we find ourselves wrestling with grief again, mourning the loss of what might have been.

From Grief to Growth

We may, however, transition to growth. We find we are looking at the past with different eyes.

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