‘Tis the Season – Kindness and Sorrow in 2021

By Jenny Silbiger

Full disclosure:  I’m sitting at my keyboard wearing felt antlers as I type this, having recently visited Santa with my two daughters whose (slightly forced) annual Christmas present to their mother is a photo shoot with him.  Girls are a tween and a teen, which explains the ‘slightly forced,’ as well as why I’m truly thankful for my present.  This time of year, I hum carols throughout the day, and drive around in a car also adorned with antlers.  Snoopy and Woodstock stand proudly outside my house.  Okay, another full disclosure:  Snoopy is struggling, he lists to the side like he had too many shots of eggnog to survive the storm that battered the islands this week and took out the power for two days in downtown Honolulu. He’s generally doing his best, though! Don’t give up, Snoopy!

Jenny with Snoopy and Woodstock at home.

Overall—these words are written by the smooshiest, holiday cookie baking, lights up in the carport, holiday cheese-ball dork on my block, maybe my neighborhood, the world?  Definitely, in my house.  

What, might you think, does this have to do with professionalism and law librarianship?  It has everything to do with balancing work and home, professional and personal. Together, they make up the person who shows up every day to support my staff, respond to library stakeholders, and provide program implementation, responses to disasters (aforementioned storm, pandemic living), and day-to-day library operations. 

With the fall and winter holidays upon us, I live for the hustle and bustle and season of giving to others. The act of giving is a gift for me that I cherish at home, and at work.  

And at the same time, this hustle and bustle can strike dissonant chords with people, including myself, who may be grieving loved ones lost, struggling with pandemic burn-out and anxiety, and/or compounded with ‘normal’ challenges either physically, mentally or otherwise.  Contrary to the myth that suicide rates increase over the holidays (and I am thankful that is a myth), holidays can and do trigger anxiety and depression.  This all means that  we can incarnate both as holiday cheese-balls as well as struggle through the season—all at the same time.

I wish there was a magic wand that could heal the sorrow we feel or provide comfort at a time when struggling—when our grief and pain seems out of place as we’re bombarded by the public, media, communities that amplify “happiness,” and “goodwill towards (wo)man,” etc.  There are recommended coping mechanisms for bearing our grief through this time from the Hospice Foundation of America and the Mayo Clinic as a start.  And even the CDC has guidance when dealing with pandemic related grief.

Furthermore, there are supportive mental health guidance and resources out there for holiday coping from Mental Health America as well as Recognizing Holiday Triggers of Trauma, from the US Department of Health & Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  In a way, it’s comforting to know we’re not alone around this topic; here’s more guidance on how to help loved ones who we think may be struggling too, if we are at a loss as to how to help them.  

Personally,  what I think would be most helpful is the act of acceptance of who we are, where we are at, and, if we can manage it—the act of connection to each other.  The sharing of our experiences and an understanding that our hearts can hold both huge feelings of gratitude, and at the same time, make space for acceptance of our sorrows.  One doesn’t diminish the other, and by accepting both, that can be the gift of love and kindness during this holiday season.  

My wish for the holiday season is to be gentle and kind and forgiving, first to ourselves for living through what we have lived through, the good and the bad, and second, for acceptance in how we met those joys and challenges, also the good and the bad.  And lastly, for doing our best with what we have, wherever we find ourselves now, and to be gentle and kind and accepting moving forward.  This can be a lifelong journey.  We are brave to live through our sorrow and heartaches and grow into our healing and give space to our joys.

We don’t have to wear antlers or sing holiday carols to ring in the season, or find the perfect gifts for our friends and colleagues, or cook the perfect holiday meal for our families and ourselves.  (Or we can try if we feel like it!)  The most important gift is that of acceptance, and that act can be cherished.

I cherish you!  


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. Their essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.