Holidays are challenging times for many people. Rather than a storehouse of loving memories, for many of us holidays serve as annual reminders of the dysfunction and pain that characterized family life. As unique as the stories are between families, the feelings of loneliness, disappointment and worthlessness associated with a history of failed holidays is universal. I have spent much of my adult life breaking the ties to my past by building rituals around the holidays for my own family. Yet, I am still caught off guard, each time the holidays come around by the persistent small voice in me that continues to miss out on the fantasy of warm extended family gatherings and feeling twinges of envy for my friends whose families come together year after year.
Perhaps it is because of the bittersweet nature of my childhood holiday memories, but I have long been intrigued by the endings in life. Although my fascination with endings was probably initially sparked by fear and insecurity, I have come to value my need to ritualize endings as a gift, one that serves to continuously remind me to be grateful even in the face of difficult relationships. The truth about life for all of us is that things are continuously coming together and falling apart. When you pay attention, every day offers opportunities to acknowledge the endings that capture this flow of connecting and letting go. They are the turning points in life that are easy to miss, but have the power to create and carry heartfelt meaning in our days.