The winter solstice is upon us. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it's the 24-hour period with the fewest hours of daylight all year. It's sometimes referred to as the 'longest night of the year', which is either the perfect metaphor for grief and/or the perfect title for an early-aught emo album.
Though I am someone deeply impacted by the darkness of the winter [she wrote, flicking on her S.A.D. lamp], there is something I have long found comforting about the idea of leaning into the winter solstice. Something is reassuring about celebrating the day when the planet seems most aligned with death, grief, and loss, all the while knowing that longer days and shorter nights lie ahead.
In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo famously wrote, "Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise". What he doesn't mention is that it will get dark again. Even the brightest day will end and the sun will set, after all. Though perhaps that sounds depressing, I actually find an incredible comfort in it. We were never promised a life that would be all light or all darkness. It has always been days and nights, joys and pains, calm and chaos, growth and decay. The only constant is that the states are ever-changing, be it the darkness, the weather, the seasons, our bodies, or our emotions.
Well, that and that big box stores will insist on putting their holiday decorations out earlier each year.
On the longest night of the year, in a season that finds you grieving, in a world that is filled with immense suffering and pain, it is weird to be surrounded by twinkle-lights, isn't it? The dissonance can feel too great. People we love are dead. Humans are suffering. What right do people have to hang twinkle-lights and be merry? What does it mean for us to hang twinkle-lights and be merry?
At the same time, we never ask what right the sun has to rise each morning. We know the night and day live side by side, doing their dance across each twenty-four span. They move up and down, across each season, longer and shorter, waxing and waning.
We've rambled more than enough about holidays and grief. We have dozens of articles about it on WYG. I'll spare you more musings and instead just send one hope your way: that you can lean into tonight's long night. Wrap it around your shoulders like a blanket, stay open to the dawn, appreciate the twinkle-lights if you can. And show yourself some kindness and compassion if you can't.
It isn't easy. It's okay if you can't.
Perhaps that is the absolute best and absolute worst thing about grief at the holidays - it may not go the way you hoped or planned, but that's okay . . . the sun will keep rising, the darkness will keep falling, and it will come back around next year for you to try it again.