An Encouraging Word — Holiday blues

Grief has filled your hearts. John 16:6

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

It wouldn’t be October without having to endure Christmas music at the mall. Just when you thought Elvis was dead, the words of one holiday favorite float through the air. “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.”

I am convinced that song is perennially popular because so many people identify with it. Not everyone is happy during the holidays. For some, the holidays just intensify the grief they are bearing.

I have not lost a beloved spouse, or worse a child, but I did lose a beloved mother. Even so, the fact that she died after enduring three years of painful treatments for breast cancer spared us most of the grief.

I would define grief as the pain one feels between what one expected and wanted to happen and what actually happened. Grief is fundamentally about not getting what we wanted and expected.

I went through a bout of grief during my recent major life transition. I had some very firm expectations, only to be bitterly disappointed. What happened was not what I expected or wanted and that left me grief stricken, angry and depressed.

My grief was intense, but I got over it in a few days because I realized how futile it all was. I came to realize that the only way out was a “reconciliation with reality.” I knew I had to be reconciled with the reality of what was not going to happen, whether I liked it or not, or I would inflict ongoing pain of my own making on myself for God knows how long.

A time for grieving is good. “If you suppress grief too much, it can well redouble.” (Moliere)

“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.” (Ovid)

“Tears have a wisdom of their own. They are the natural bleeding of an emotional wound, carrying the poison out of the system. Here lies the road to recovery.” (F. Alexander Magoun)

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” (Washington Irving)

However, for our own sanity, and that of those around us, the time must come when we realize that holding onto grief has become counterproductive. “When fresh, grief finds someone to console it, but when it becomes chronic, it is ridiculed, and rightly so.” (Seneca)

“It is foolish to tear one’s hair in grief, as though sorrow would be made less by baldness.” (Cicero)

Grief shared is grief lightened. Again this year, I invite anyone going through grief to come to the Bellarmine University’s Our Lady of the Woods Chapel for a special Christmas Eve Mass at 4 p.m. It will be respectfully low-key and I will prepare a special message of hope. Get the word out to anyone who could benefit by our fourth annual “Blue Christmas Mass.”

Father J. Ronald Knott

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