After a challenging year, we’re all adjusting to new expectations of Christmas. The year has taken its toll and even as we rally for the celebrations, many of us are exhausted.
The run up to the end of 2020 has been incredibly hard, impacting our emotional and mental wellbeing as we struggle to respond to on-going demands and difficulties.
Hardship and pain
We have faced numerous hardships. For me, the greatest of these has been not being able to visit my Dad for most of the year; he’s in residential care. We’re close, and so to miss this time at this season of his life has been painful at times.
I know many others have faced similar challenges. I’m aware of friends who have lost loved ones, careers that are on hold, income disappearing, and relationships under huge strain.
Effort and energy
In addition to such losses, everything is taking more effort. The activities and friendships that keep us afloat need regular attention, and we struggle to find energy for this, despite the goodness they offer.
Into all this, we find ourselves in Advent- a deeply hopeful and generous season, but one in which we are collectively weary. How to find and extend the gift to others when we may be feeling browbeaten, and impacted by loss? How to seek God in this?
Lament and gratitude
I wrote Finding Light with input from Sanctuary colleagues and friends to offer a way to connect to the year’s losses. I hope it might help us to lament; an unfamiliar practice for many of us, yet one which can build meaningful connection.
As we grieve these losses we are encouraged in the resource to recognise the gifts present to us in the year. Our capacity for gratitude is often untapped at times like this – yet also offers a way to connect with each other, with the possibility we might find a shard of the enduring hope we’re promised.
Difficult emotions and those that are more welcome can exist in the same situation; I grieve the loss of in-person contact with Dad but I’m grateful for the diligent care he’s received. It is keeping him safe as he faces numerous challenges at this time of his life.
Finding hope and light
As I share this with others I can hear their experiences too and offer a space for them. This for me, is community.
If this year feels like the deepest dark, my hope is that you will be met by the light in a way which means you can hold what you need to. May you know what it is to be held by the God that loves you at this time you need it the most.
To download Finding Light, and more information other free resources which can support your church and community in mental health awareness and response look at Sanctuary’s website: www.sanctuarymentalhealth.org/uk
Corin Pilling is UK Director of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries