I am no stranger to loss—of people I love, relationships, seasons of my life, and health. I have been to more funerals than I’d like to share. I have looked death in the face personally in my experience with cancer. I was barely 18 when my father died unexpectedly and left me with more questions than answers about who he was and what our relationship could have been like. These experiences shape me, but they don’t define me. I would never wish these things on anyone, but I wouldn’t change them either. I am more compassionate, loving, open, and caring than I ever thought I could be. My heart is open and vulnerable, and I do the work to allow this (side note: it’s really hard). And that’s the way I choose to live my life.
I have also had the honor of witnessing birth—beautiful, excruciating, rip your heart wide open birth. I have whispered encouragement, shouted “yes! you’re doing it!”, wiped tears of joy and grief from my own face and faces of others. I don’t do much doula work at this point in my life, but I hold those experiences closely. The opportunity to see a brand new person join this world is an immense honor. I cry every time.
I realize as I get older and I experience more loss and see the birth of my friends’ babies that birth and death touch me in the same part of my heart. The fleeting nature of life lives there. I am reminded of this in December as the year slips through our fingers and we are faced with a fresh start and a new chance to shift our priorities and our lives. At this time of the year, I always wonder where in the world the time went and if I spent it well. I recognize December as a time of loss and a time of birth. We celebrate making it through another year. We acknowledge our newest scars and our old stand-bys. We evaluate how we’ve contributed to the world and what we missed this year. We have regrets sometimes. We think ahead to the next year and set our intentions for what we’d like to accomplish and how we want to feel. We have the chance to change our patterns and our minds. Sometimes we even forgive.
As much as I love twinkle lights, holiday parties, and sharing good cheer with those I love most, I recognize December as a month of gravity. Often, my happiness is matched with a slow sadness—I miss the people I’ve lost recently and long ago, I miss how things used to be, and I anticipate the changes that will undoubtedly occur in my life over the next year. There is no way we could ever prepare ourselves for the losses we will experience, and certainly not the births (which can be equally life-altering). Life will always surprise us. December is a weight, and it is an opportunity.
These are dark times for many of us. But there is wisdom in the dark, and you are not alone there. Many of us are fumbling around (even the helpers), trying to find our way and feel okay. I hope we will bump into each other and share our stories, and recognize we are not the only ones. Our experiences carry truth, depth, and an edge that balances our softness. They make us real. They’re not easy. I’m so glad you’re here and I have immense gratitude for your authenticity. Thank you for walking in the dark with me.
Elizabeth is a therapist at Porch Light Counseling in Asheville, NC. She specializes in supporting expectant families in the adjustment to parenthood and treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Contact her here to schedule a session.