Grief At Christmas
Christmas for so many people is usually a time for seeing family, feeling loved and celebrating the past year in style. It's a time when everyone seems in good spirits and the world is lit up and twinkly.
I for one love Christmas and always have...in fact when I was little I often used to make myself physically sick on Christmas morning because I was just THAT excited!
I've definitely calmed down from that level nowadays (thank goodness!) but something that I wanted to touch on today was those people who dread this time of year and really struggle.
I feel that 2020, in particular, is a year that none of us will forget, and so many more of us are grieving. Be it a lost loved one, or simply the loss of a traditional Christmas.
As you know, since losing my mum my perspective on a lot of things has changed. It's easy when everything is going well in your life to not understand why someone would not look forward to the festivities and hide themselves away. However just as Christmas can be an amazing time for some, it can equally be a very sad and lonely time for others. It can really highlight that you have lost someone and make you yearn for them that little bit more.
I am a big believer in keeping people's spirits alive and instead of being afraid to talk about them, make them a part of your celebrations. I have put together a few ideas that help me and hopefully may help anyone else who is missing someone special this year.
The first Christmas without my mum, whilst shopping all I could see was Mummy and Mum cards. It broke my heart that I wouldn't be able to ever buy one again. I struggled with this feeling for a while and then realised that why couldn't I still buy her one? Why put myself through the upset?
I chose the prettiest one I could find and wrote a special message inside (whilst balling my eyes out I admit, but I felt better afterwards for having written what I wanted to share with her). Then on Christmas morning I went down to the cemetery and left it there for her with some flowers.
She is still my mum so why not do something that makes me feel like she is still included.
I still continue to do this a few years on.
I was brought up a Catholic and even though I'm not practising today, I do get a lot of comfort from being in a church. It feels so peaceful and makes me feel calm.
So each year on Christmas Eve I now go into my church and light a 3-day candle for my mum. Knowing that this stays alight over the Christmas period makes me happy and also allows me that quiet moment to think of her, or talk to her, before the busyness begins.
We were very lucky that we managed to keep my mum at home where she wanted to be, rather than having to go into a hospice, however the nurses did come into our home regularly to help look after her in the last few days and keep her comfortable. This is a service that is incredibly important and you don't appreciate it until you have unfortunately had to use it.
There are some families however that will spend their Christmas day in the hospice with a loved one and will want to try and make it the best day possible. St Catherine's hospice, near me, ask for donations of drink around this time as they offer patients and families a glass of bubbly or something festive on the day to celebrate as best they can.
I think this is a lovely touch that would be hugely appreciated, so I drive down to St Catherine's each Christmas Eve as well, to donate some bottles to help create good memories for some people in need.
The Christmas tree is always the main feature of decorations in the house and so I decided that it would be nice to remember my mum whenever I looked at mine. I bought myself some angel wing decorations that hang on the tree and have one right in the centre.
This brings me comfort, as again it makes me feel as though she is around and I am allowing myself that mindful moment of reflection when hanging it up.
You could choose something that reminds you of your loved one too, it could be something funny from a private joke, or even a photograph in a little frame that you can hang up.
This one can be incredibly hard, as you can feel as though you don't want to think about what's happened too much in case it upsets you. However I think it's so important and will actually make you feel better. Share your favourite memories with each other and laugh about the silly things that your loved one used to do.
Talking keeps them alive within you and helps to reduce the feeling that they are missing. Don't be afraid to let your mind wander there and perhaps raise a glass to them at the table too.
All of these little things have helped me a lot over the last few years and I hope that they can help anyone else in this situation too. To end this post, here is a little request from me:
Please don't forget anyone who may be alone this Christmas time or who may still be grieving.
Please appreciate your families and tell them how important they are to you (even over Zoom this year). Don't ever take them for granted.
Never feel guilty for having fun and enjoying yourself.