Mourning, In A Season of Thanks

Baby Candace with Daddy Sam, Winter 1978

For most, Thanksgiving is a holiday full of rich memories of family and friends, while, for many, this time of year is but the beginning of a dark season of despair.

Reasons offered for this general tendency are varied, some researchers cite the increased pressures or unfulfilled expectations of the holiday season, combined with a sudden and dramatic propensity for increased festivities or indulgence.

Maybe it’s a turnabout on the old adage: “You can’t appreciate the sweet without the sour,” that too much of the “sweet” makes the slightest amount of “sour” that much more unbearable.

Even those venerable men of science have quantified and classified this affliction with the handy-dandy label of seasonal affective disorder, complete with an accompanying prescription.

Apparently, the shorter days and longer nights associated with the Winter months in our hemisphere cause the human body to produce fewer endorphins, resulting in a physiological condition that can cause depression.

You know that rush of delight you got as a kid on Christmas morning, or that sudden flood of joy when your team scores in the last second to win the game? That’s your endorphins kicking in, and they’re like an all-purpose physiological ray of sunshine.

As clean and tidy and scientific as all that is, I don’t buy it. Not only because of the simple fact that the human spirit is far more profound than the mere ebb and flow of certain internal chemicals, but also because climates are not utterly unifying.

Granted, if you’re already depressed, a cloudy day is probably going to amplify those emotions. All the same, if your mood is ebullient, you might look upon the rain as a source of renewal or refreshment. I know I do.

There is also the possibility that holidays can sometimes become associated with times of adversity or loss.

My wife lost her father to Cancer on this day five years ago, on the day before Thanksgiving in 2004. That’s five Thanksgivings and five Christmases without a man who celebrated them like no other.

Only a mere “son-in-law,” I too mourn his loss, not merely for myself or even in empathy for my beloved wife, as much as I mourn for what my children have missed.

Sam died when my firstborn daughter Gaelynn was a toddler and my eldest son Israel was still a swaddling babe. At that time my two younger children Sophia and Liam existed only within the imagination of their Creator.

My own imagination can conceive of what joys they have missed in these past five years, and it is a painful thought. The more I indulge in this thinking, the more a growing darkness begins to encroach upon me.

Though my wife is one of the strongest women I have ever known, I yet see the strain gather along the periphery…  as each week and each day draws closer. This year it has be especially sharp, with our having moved back to the area.

But that’s a “touch of gray” along the silver linings of the holidays. As joyous an occasion as the holidays can be, they also compound the absence felt by a loved one that has been called home to Glory or can rub salt in other wounds.

So while you gather among your family and friends, extend a hand of fellowship to those that are hurting and reach out to those that have suffered loss.

Apostle Paul commands that we should weep with those that weep, as Jesus Christ promises those that mourn will be comforted, so that it shall be as King David writes: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life.”

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