We are in the season. Whatever your faith or cultural ritual orientation, we in the Northern Hemisphere are in the dark times. The light is shining lower in the sky and for less time each day. Our cultures combat the dark with light: Diwali, Hanukah, Christmas, and so on. All seek to banish the darkness.
That’s great. Light does win over the darkness. We are like the light, bound by darkness as day is to night.
Which leads me to grief, when the loss of a loved one is fresh, and the night takes us in our loss. We need to know it’s okay. Grief is the cousin of love. And so, one perfectly valid coping mechanism for the holiday season is to say, “Not this year. I need to move through the darkness in my own way. I love you living people, friends and family, but I can’t participate this year in the feasting, the lights, the rituals we have shared. I need to be with my heart.”
It is one hundred percent okay to take a break. It’s important that we take the time in our culture to honor and reach an understanding that each person grieves in their own way and in their own time. Next time you are at the grocery store and get irritated with someone moving too slowly or getting in your way, remind yourself they might have lost someone, they might be grieving and tender, and being here is too much. Remember, it could be you in another alternate, but not too distant, future.
This was a lesson hard-learned for me as a young woman having lost first my mother, then my best and closest friend, as well as being a passenger in a fatal car crash, all in a 3½ year period. My heart screamed, “NO! Not this year. Not these feasts. Not these lights. Not these rituals.” But the world didn’t know how to grieve and didn’t see the strength in mourning. Didn’t know that through loss, big and small, we are made stronger and, ultimately, more full of life and more desirous of it. Instead the world around me made me feel like I was broken. I was not. I was instead sitting in the heart of my humanity.
So, this year if your heart is too tender, if going to the grocery store feeling naked, raw and hearing a voice well up saying, “Can’t you all see I’m suffering? Why do you all keep going on?” Honour that. Listen to the tender small voice that says, “Enough! I need to withdraw and understand my loss, feel my heart.” In so doing you might discover a gift: at the very seat of your humanity is a brilliant heart. After all, we are both light and dark. We are the very stuff of the natural world.
Award-winning producer, director, and writer, Johanna has crafted, and assisted in crafting, many compelling, entertaining, and profoundly thought-provoking programs during her 20+ years in the business. Her work has received eight Gemini (Canadian equivalent of an Emmy) nominations and taken home three awards. In addition to producing more than 150 hours of television series and one-offs as an in-house executive producer, she has made independent documentaries for her own companies, Wild East Productions and Centre East Media, and won best documentary at Hot Docs International Film Festival for her moving and timely film, Forgiveness: Stories for Our Time. She has worked as Director of Programming for Alliance Atlantis and played a key role in the launch of IFC—The Independent Film Channel Canada. Prior to that, Johanna was Head of Independent Production for CTV, Canada’s #1 network. She created View-finders, the first competitive international children’s film festival in English-speaking Canada, and was Artistic Director of the Atlantic Film Festival. Years of programming and producing have honed her storytelling talents. Johanna’s most recent documentary, An Uncommon King, is still making its way around the world through festivals and iTunes.