Holding Joy & Sorrow Together

By Sara Barry

Light and dark.

Joy and sorrow.

December is a time for these extremes that are parts of the same whole.

Darkness sneaks in early and lingers in December. I don’t mind much these days. I cozy up to the fire, hand the kids headlamps to run outside. I admire the dusky purple colors of the settling twilight.

Eleven years ago the darkness fell heavy. With light already dimmed, these long winter nights were long and lonely. Grief settled harder with the dark and cozy eluded me.

I’d wrap myself in his blanket, the one my nana made with yellow yarn and love. I lit candles, turned on memory lamps. Sit in the blue glow of my computer seeking other stories of loss and love, missing and memories.

Eleven years has brought big change from my first holiday season without Henry. It’s brought two births. It’s brought a growing sense of light and a greater comfort in the darkness. It’s brought new traditions and new ways of experiencing this full time.

And still, this month challenges me, every year different, every year emotionally complex and extreme.

I have learned to sit with light and darkness together. I have learned to hold both joy and sorrow cupped in my hands. I’ve learned that they don’t have to pull me apart, but that both can have their place.

I look forward to the solstice, when we turn back toward light. I look forward to sitting in stillness and quiet as the dark peaks. Days before this my own darkness peaks as we mark another year from Henry’s passing.

I will shut down my computer and silence my phone. I won’t take calls for appointments or show up for basketball practice. I’ll set aside Christmas shopping and my to do lists.

On that day, I will make space for quiet and stillness. I will make space for breakfast with a friend who knows what this day means and that I won’t know what I need until we are in the moment, and perhaps not even then. I will make space for a walk in the woods and a visit to the cemetery. I will make space to sit by the fire. I will make space for tears, and memories and reflection.

I will make space to break open, once again, to the enormity of his life and my loss.

Our life has gotten busy. I get my girls off to school and settle in to work, deadlines to meet, client calls. I bring my girls to piano and Girl Scouts and basketball games in two different places each week. We go to the library and the winter farmers market and the bank. We go and we do and we come home and read and snuggle.

But on this one day, each year, I make space. Even 11 years later, I give this day to Henry. I give it to myself.

I give myself over to the light and dark of this day. I allow for the joy even in the sorrow. I held his life and now I hold his death. And I make space for all of it.

In this season of busy and bustling joy, may you find space and stillness.

In this season when darkness hangs low, may you find peace and light.

In this season of giving, may you give yourself what you need most in this moment.

In this season of tugging extremes may you find a way to sit with the light and dark, hold both sorrow and joy knowing they both need space and both are complete and full.