Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent Reflection: Grief and Loss (and Comic Books and Jimmy Fallon)

Seems like most Christians I know love the Advent and Christmas seasons more than any other time of the year.  And between the stories and the liturgies and the symbols, there's a lot to love.

The funny thing is, this is also one of the hardest seasons for a lot of folks. When I was a dorm counselor in college, we were told to expect more students to suffer family tragedies between Thanksgiving and Christmas than at any other time of the year.  And it's really true, isn't it? Deaths, divorces, catastrophic accidents or illness -- you name it, and 'tis the season.

Some people try to explain that stuff away -- it was God's plan or whatnot. I understand the impulse.  If we can explain our pain in some way, it's as though we have some control over it. But when you're sitting at Christmas and somebody's not there, I don't know, I think all those sorts of explanations melt away and leave you to be savaged by the sense of loss.

And you know what, maybe that's how it should be.  I was reading a great comic book not too long ago in which a main character realizes he is about to be killed, and there's no avoiding it. And he stands there seeing it coming and he tells himself "Don't run.  Be present to this.  Let yourself experience this moment in full."

Maybe we're meant to experience loss like that, to let it run us over like a train and shred our hearts. Really, how could it go any way other than that when it comes to those we love?

At Christmas we imagine the 3 Kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. It might sound odd to suggest it, but if what we carry with us this year is loss, then maybe that's what we're invited to lay down before him, our shredded razor hearts.  If God can turn water into wine and death into new life, surely he can bless us in our pain, as well.

I don't want to end on that note.  I know we're still weeks away from Christmas, but Jimmy Fallon, Mariah Carey and the Roots did this great Christmas song.  I know you're going to love it.


Shelly said...

You're right on with this reflection. I am working on an aritcle right now, and the beginning of it, "Death has been much on my mind of late", gave me pause. Where did that come from?? On its face, the article appears to be about death, but it isn't really about death at all - it is ultimately about life. The trick is to make that leap, seeing life (or joy, or goodness, etc.) within death, loss, grief... I think for most of us, that realization only comes with time, though we may catch glimpses of it as we work through whatever needs to be worked through. And of course, we must believe and have faith and trust...and fully embrace all that comes with this belief, faith and trust (easier said than done!).

Happy Advent! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Jim McDermott, S.J. said...

Thanks for the comment. And when you finish the article, if there's a link let me know. I'd love to read it!

Jen Gramaje said...

Thank you for your reflection! One of the teachers was my age (27) and she hid her students in closets. When the gunman went to her class, she said she brought her kids to another room. He shot her and left. All of her kids survived. Makes me think whether I would have been able to do the same. True heros! May their souls rest in peace in the heavenly Kingdom.