This past weekend saw many people—adults and children alike—celebrating Halloween by decking out in costumes, indulging in candy and treats, and spending time with friends. Depending on where you live, Halloween weekend often indicates the official change of seasons, ushering in shorter days, cozy blankets, crunchy leaves blanketing the ground, and pumpkin-flavored everything. It also means the holiday season is just around the corner. For many people this upcoming season is “the most wonderful time of the year”, yet for others, it surfaces many fears and anxieties linked to the loss of loved ones or unmet resolutions. Do you find yourself in this latter category? If so, find some solace in knowing that you are not alone, and it is perfectly normal to feel this way. Days are getting shorter and nights are getting longer, and this physical presence of darkness often calls to mind the light we may no longer have in our lives.

Choose Your Response

This week, immediately following Halloween, is the perfect time to take a brief inventory of your emotions and state of being, and to set an intention for the upcoming holiday season and winter months. We can choose to allow our surroundings to pull us down into the darkness, or we can choose light. We can choose to see opportunity in all circumstances. For many, the pain of a current situation—such as terminal illness (our own or a loved one’s), a recent death, divorce, loss of job, change of financial situation, etc.—will likely be top of mind this season. As with all things in life, we cannot always choose the things that happen to us, but we can choose how we will respond to them.

So, how will you choose to respond this season? Will you experience resentment towards those happy and carefree friends enjoying their holidays, or will you allow yourself to indulge just a little bit in their light; to understand we can only experience loss if we’ve allowed ourselves to love or to trust? Can you find some light in the love that you have experienced? While this year’s holidays may be different, is there any good that could come from different? Could new traditions be made, maybe in memory of your deceased loved one, to keep his or her presence alive around your dinner table?

The Empty Chair

During a holiday gathering this year, I invite you to try an exercise that I call “The Empty Chair”. One of the hardest aspects of heading into the holidays after a loved one has died is facing their empty chair at the table. Use this exercise to change the dialogue. Dedicate the chair to your loved one. Perhaps leave it empty and talk about the light that still pours forth from their chair, even after they are gone. Take turns sitting in the chair and sharing favorite sayings or memories of your loved one. Don’t allow their life, or the light of these holidays, to disappear because of the darkness of their loss. Flip it around and allow that chair to be a source of light during these days and all year long.

Shine Your Light

If you are someone for whom the holidays bring a sense of wholeness, and pure joy, please celebrate. Rejoice and enjoy! Share your light with those in search for a spark. If you know someone at one of life’s darker crossroads, reach out to them. Invite them over. Drop them a note. Send them a gift. Find a way to remind them that they are not alone.

All you have to do is “see” them, acknowledge their darkness, open yourself up to them and share with them a little bit of your warmth and your light. This will not only transform their holidays, it will transform your own into a true season of joy, love and light.

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