Tis the Season for Grieving
Growing up these were some of the most joy-filled times of the year. Looking back I feel that, as people of the sun, we were generating our own heat through laughter, dancing and mad people in tight ass spaces as a way to make up for our lack of external sun. Se fue el sol pero no el calor (We lost the sun but not the heat). We had so much family around between the Heights, Queens and the Bronx that we would go house hop having a great time, many nights, into the dawn. These were the days I was conditioned into learning how to sleep with music blasting from the speakers, a necessary survival skill for the children of this family. Even when the family “broke up” and we stopped going to our cousin’s houses in Queens for any of the holidays, we simply started having people over to our crib and folks would grin and bear the 5th floor walk up for the promise of kids running around, delicious food and loud music playing on multiple floors of the building. Folks would be saying hi to the neighbors we all grew up with on the way up. I have very fond memories of these times etched deep within me. They’re more than memories though. It seems I was inoculated with the antidote for winter. Being first generation in this country somehow my parents knew these parts of our magic and ancestry were needed to combat the cold, hard ways of this particular land.
And then things changed. Not all at once, tho somehow it feels that way. Mami passed away. People started moving away. Family started to extend and now getting together was about doodles and negotiations. Folks were going to the houses of their partners, extended families, some people just stopped giving a fuck about coming around, and it all started to feel like a burden. “Ay dios, con todo eso escalones? A cojer pa’lla?! Y ahorra ella es vegana, dique no van a tener pernil? Ay no!” (“With all those stairs to go over there? And I hear she’s vegan now and there won’t even be pork?! Oh no!”)
And it feels like I’m on a precipice. I have just as many years of the warmth, great times and childhood feeling of celebration as I do the years of slaving over meals that folks didn’t appreciate, staying up all night to clean, and having to put up with the nerves of whether certain family members were going to get drunk and start fights before the night was over.
I grieve warmth.
The warmth of the sun, of my people, and all the women that have passed in my family since those early days. I grieve the life I never had that capitalism sells to me during this time. I grieve for all the families that will have multiple empty chairs because their loved ones lives have been stolen by the police, poverty, racist, transphobic, homophobic maniacs. I grieve for what we don’t have and will never be.
This season of transition, of abundance, of harvest is one that asks us to deeply connect with all that we have, and don’t have. Abundance doesn’t mean turning away from where there isn’t more than enough. Al contrario, this season forces me to confront the tension between all that I’m grateful for while simultaneously keeping it 100 about where there isn’t abundance. Where I didn’t plan, seed, till and work my life to have abundance in certain areas in this season. To face the reality of where I did work hard and was still robbed. To prepare to go into this winter with all of these truths, exposed, present, and in front – harvested – so that I CAN dream powerfully, in the dark, about what will bloom this coming spring.
Our bodies, our families and communities could stand to make room for all of this. Too often we mask the grieving that becomes available to us this season and put on a front about “good cheer” and celebration that doesn’t feel genuine, is inauthentic and robs us of growth and transformation that is ONLY possible when we look to our dark sides. To me this time of year is marked by very crucial holy-days. Days where each day the darkness increases until the winter solstice when that begins to turn around. Don’t let these systems fool you into thinking that we must generate “lightness” to get by. Here are some ways you can invite the power of this time and the strength of our collective grieving into your life and make room for it in the lives of those you love:
Stay Open to Multiple Realities / Emotions
Stop greeting people with Happy Thanksgiving or Merry whatever the fuck. Not all of us celebrate these times with those names. Many of us honor the National Day of Mourning on this third Thursday of November to acknowledge the genocide that was/is enacted upon Indigenous Peoples throughout Turtle Island through violence and domination. It doesn’t mean don’t celebrate whatever you celebrate, and it also means don’t assume others folks celebrate the same things or in the same way. You are welcome to your excitement and joy and can you hold that others may not feel the same during this time? Check in to see if you’re quick to want to switch the subject to something “happy” or dismiss someone as you/they share rage, disappointment, sadness or any of the other ways grief can show up.
Connect with Your People at the Margins – Including Parts of You Shoved Away During this Time of the Year
This one hetero, rich, white, cis version of family sitting around tables, eating together, loving up on eachother is pushed SO hard during this time of the year that anyone who isn’t that (and no one really is) can have incredible amounts of shame and isolation come up. Check in with your people and have the time and space to really hear what’s coming up for them. This also includes parts of us that we compartmentalize to fit into this mold. As someone who misses loud and boisterous family gatherings, I KNOW I’ve stayed in relationships that didn’t honor all parts of me because of what I was able to access through their families. I’d play dress up and show up as hetero and non depressed to the world, even if that wasn’t who I was, just to get a taste of that family time and connection. Check in with what you may be casting to the side as a sacrifice for the ways you are being pushed to show up in the world. And are you asking that of people you love? Sending invites and asking your queer family members how they’ll dress, or if they’re coming with their “friend.” Having gatherings in places that are difficult for folks of all bodies to come through to. Can we be with all of us and all parts of us?
Extend Invitations and Be Open To Any Response
I have learned to share with my partners at the start of the fall and winter about who I’ve been during these seasons, and to share that this doesn’t mean it’s how I will show up because each day is different. I may not have the energy to get out of bed some days because grief has overcome me, and others I’ll feel like dancing every second because my energy abounds. I won’t know. What I appreciate are folks that keep the invites coming and give ME the opportunity to choose if I can / will show up so I don’t feel lonely when I see all the posts and pictures from something I wasn’t invited to. My closest folks also know that I will make it if I can and they don’t shame or guilt me into coming to something I’m not prepared to attend.
There is no one way to work through grief and there aren’t “a few easy steps” that will have people get over anything. I’m writing this missing the women of my family, missing the old version of my family gatherings, feeling that sitting so thickly in my chest, on my eyes, se me sienten triste. I feel it in the heaviness of my body – my bones weigh a ton. And that’s today. Right now. In a few hours I’ll be gathering with some friends because I said yes weeks ago and was able to prepare spiritually and physically for making the trek to Brooklyn from the Bronx to gather with people I care about. All of this is true and I’m forever grateful to the community I’ve created, and nurture, that allow for all of this to exist at the same time. I love us and pray we can keep expanding the space in our bodies and in our communities for us to show up as whole, which includes our grief during holy days of celebration and warmth.