There are many traditions that come with the holiday season—Christmas, Kwanzaa, Koleda, Hanukkah, and more. And while each of these different celebrations are beautiful, the Hanukkah tradition of focusing on bringing light into the darkness deeply resonates within me.
The metaphor of the Menorah
Those who practice Judaism light the Menorah to commemorate the miracle that happened when the Macabees (Jewish rebels) took back the Holy Temple from their conquerors. The Macabees cleaned and restored the Temple but had only one small flask of oil to light the menorah.
This small flask of oil, which should have lasted less than a day, burned bright for 8 days—hence the 8 days of Hanukkah. Each day, another candle on an arm of the Menorah is lit to honor the increasing magnitude of the miracle of the oil.
As a person who has experienced deep grief over many losses within a short period of time, I know darkness.
Within a span of less than 4 years, my brother, father-in-law, mother, father, and teenage son died. My brother and son completed suicide, so these unthinkable deaths were accompanied by deep guilt. I believed if I’d seen their pain and done something to stop them they wouldn’t have died.
I know first-hand that when we resist embracing our grief, physical and mental illness may occur. I was overwhelmed by depression for six long months after my brother Mark’s death. After my son Reed’s death, I dove deep and leaned into my sadness, guilt, and longing. Of course, some days I was overwhelmed by the grief and trauma in my body.
But as a person who has learned how to move through grief, I also know radiant living.
The miracle of abundant light—the spirit of Hanukkah—is what speaks to me so deeply. It’s a reminder that even in the depths of the ocean of grief, there is a ray of hope to guide me toward the surface.
I know it can seem as if there simply isn’t enough hope, joy, or even relief from the pain of grief, to pull us out of the darkness. But just like the small flask of oil, there are miracles all around you that can provide far more than you may think.
My list of miracles:
Family and friends are priceless. While they may not be experienced in how to speak to someone who is grieving, their hearts are in the right place. These are people that you can show your emotions to, and trust in the love that they have for you.
My body knows it’s stuff. Whenever I am in the grip of a strong emotion, I have trained myself to take a step back and check in with my body. Grief lives in the body, and once you’re able to clearly communicate with your body, you can learn how to release your emotions in healthy ways.
Grief is a gateway to growth. While it may seem counterintuitive to list grief as a miracle, it truly is. Grief brings up the deepest parts of ourselves longing to be healed. When you truly lean into it, you will discover those habitual patterns that keep you stuck in suffering. And with curiosity, you will choose who you want to be as you move forward.
Significant loss is inevitable. It is part of the human experience. Instead of avoiding the dark emotions, I have learned how to properly move through them and grow into a beautiful, radiant life.
Human connection. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, no one cares, I invite you to hop on social media for a few minutes. There are perfect strangers commenting on videos and pictures of other strangers, building them up by way of compliments, sympathy, and advice. There are those that choose to be negative, but the good by far outweighs the bad.
You can see people displaying caring for others in so many ways out in the world, too. It’s holding a door for a stranger, buying a meal for the person next in line at the drive-thru, or letting someone cut in front of you when traffic is backed up.
No matter how you celebrate the holidays, keep this in mind…
This time of year may be difficult, but relying on others to help keep your inner light going is a miracle in and of itself. If you find yourself struggling, please reach out. There are so many resources available to you (such as the Lifeline website and hotline), and as ever, I am here sending you love.
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
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