Hurting for the Holidays: A Candle in the Darkness by Heidi Faith

Comet Panstarrs  13.03.2013
photo by ched cheddles

For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays.  Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season.  Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.


Sometimes, from the bottom of the chasm of darkness, we discover the only place there is to look, is up.

Through this holiday season, we are beckoned to behold Venus, known as the goddess of love. Venus will be burning her very brightest this month, making for a very bright looking star in the western sky.

And as we peer into the dark sky, we are also invited to see if we might find comet ISON.

This “sun grazing comet” has been referred to as “the lone traveler” moving from the very edges of our solar system on a path heading directly past the sun. Originating some 100,000 AU away from Earth (1AU, for comparison, is the distance from Earth to the sun), this chunk of rock and ice is being shaped into a burning oval – a zero shaped flame – the nearer it travels toward the sun.

As the chunk of rock and ice melts, it endures a process called sublimation, turning from solid to gas. Sublimation releases dust, and it is this dust that creates the bright light.

It is the dust, you see, that makes it not only visible, but beautiful.

Comet ISON isn’t the first sungrazing comet to find its way just past Earth during the holiday season. Comet Lovejoy of 2011 is another, and even years before, the Great Comet of 1680.

Some cometary experts believe ISON to be the brightest comet of the century.

Traveling over the North Pole past Thanksgiving, it will be close enough to view with the naked eye just before dawn and just after sunset, through the holiday season.

If comet ISON survives perihelion, that is, the closest approach to the sun, we will be able to see it fade into the heavens into the New Year. Jim Green, the director of NASA’s planetary science division says, “ISON really is a holiday comet. You ought to be able to see it well past Christmas, but it’s got to survive it, that’s the only thing about that.”

We can feel like that sometimes. “If we can just get past this…”

Maybe, though, you won’t see the comet. Maybe you just won’t be motivated enough to wake up early or maybe you try and through the clouds of the sky or the clouds in your heart, you just aren’t seeing any light out there. Nothing moving. No spark of hope moving through the heavens. Just a rock in your spirit and ice in your weary soul.

image by Heidi Faith
 Whether you find the heavenly candle ISON burning above you or not, ISON is there. Rock and ice, burning, moving, falling apart, turning into dust and dust giving light, a rainbow in the dark, a zero candle burning through the heavens, pushing, pushing, from the outermost edges of our solar system, moving just above us through this very season. With lenses pointed from all over the world – and the sky – ISON is the international word on the street this holiday season. How long has it been travelling? Will there ever be another like it? Will it survive the holidays? But the truth is, you and I, when we beg for a flicker of hope, some stirring from the realm beyond, for a glimmer, a spark of light, some acknowledgement that our babies matter, that they live, that we are not alone…

When we learn about this heavenly candle burning through this season, you and I, we get to take it personally. We get to receive this as a gift, an acknowledgement, a whisper of truth, a reminder, that things unseen still count. Our babies count, are worthy of celebrating because they are real.

This journey is a painful one. We give of ourselves and we give of ourselves and we fear we are losing our babies all over again as the memories fade and we continue to be refined in the fire of social pressures to move on. It is when the heavenly candle has nothing left – when it breaks down to dust – that it shines the brightest. You have a light within you. And when you feel you have nothing left to give, you too just may be shining your brightest. And it might not seem like the world has taken any notice of your journey, of your painful sojourn, of your refinement, the cosmos are certainly mirroring the path. 


Let’s move forward, together. We’ll get through this holiday season. We’ll find our way through the dark. And no matter what happens, no matter how much or how very little we may feel we have left, we’ll be brighter for it.

I love how Heidi draws a comparison between the treacherous path of comet ISON and the pain-filled way that the grieving must take through the holidays.  But -- together, we can survive.  No matter who or what you're aching for, let us link arms and hold one another up.  Tell me, who or what are you missing this year?

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Heidi Faith is the an international speaker, writer, and the founder of Stillbirthday, an online resource and digital school dedicated to the support of mothers who have endured the loss of a baby before, during, or after birth.

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