How To Get Through Christmas Without Those No Longer Here.
“Has he been?”
“No, you can all go back to bed.”
Myself and my two younger sisters, would stand at the top of the staircase impatiently waiting to find out if Father Christmas had been in the night. We weren’t allowed down until we had the all clear.
“Oh wait, the mince pies have disappeared. Maybe he came and forgot to leave the presents.”
As we craned our neck to see if we could see for ourselves, all you could make out were the flickering lights of the Christmas decorations.
“I think you can come down now Hel.”
My mum’s name, Helen, affectionately shortened to Hel. My mum would smile, and before she could say anything out loud, we would all throw ourselves down the stairs at full speed, to find a living room filled to the brim with presents.
Beaming with the biggest, sleepiest smile you ever did see, wearing his favourite slippers, my Dad would say, “Merry Christmas Kids.”
This was our routine. Year on year.
Nobody could take that away from us. Except they did.
And Christmas would never be the same.
I can never truly understand your pain, your loss. I can only imagine.
As your grief is entirely your own, you go at your own pace.
I am just here, a friendly hand, to guide you through one of the hardest times of the year.
Whether you are alone now, or with other family and friends, please know that you are loved.
Embrace every spectrum of the emotions rushing through your veins.
Anger. Sadness. Guilt. Pain. Love. Fear.
Cry and scream, cry some more.
You don’t have to smile for anyone, but if you can, smile for yourself. You deserve that.
My Dad absolutely loved Christmas. From the M&S Christmas food shop, to the chocolates mum would not let you touch for weeks on end, the Beano Annual we bought him every year, and the Christmas films that we watched endlessly. We were completely spoilt rotten, especially on Christmas. Mum would hate us being in our pyjamas and the second presents were finished, it was upstairs to get our best outfits on. Mum would be busy cooking away in the kitchen and Dad would make me a Snowball. If we were very lucky we got to have a sip of champagne. I have some of the most treasured memories from Christmas time, and I know my Dad worked his socks off to ensure we all had the biggest smiles on our faces.
How can anyone expect me to be happy this time of year?
It may be described as the most wonderful time of year, but when the most important people in your life are no longer with you, it certainly does not feel that way. Do not put pressure on yourself to be happy. But also do not punish yourself if you do.
Speak to friends and family. You may not wish to speak to another human soul, but hear me out. Just let those around you know how you are feeling and what your plans are for Christmas. Let them know if you want to celebrate this time of year, or if you don’t. You can cancel Christmas or you can have three different back up plans. Whether you choose to be alone or whether you plan on joining family for dinner, speak up. This may feel like a daunting task, deciding what to do, but listen to your heart, and allow people around you to help. Your friends and family are there for you, even if they have no idea what to say. Some people can be at a loss, and are uncertain as what to say to help someone going through a difficult time, this does not mean they do not care. Communicate how you are feeling and this will make everything feel a lot calmer.
Christmas Traditions. If you want to avoid them because the memories are too painful, I hear you. If you feel they might sooth your pain, then watch your favourite Xmas movie four times in a row. Eat an entire box of Quality Streets. Have that extra glass of prosecco. But if you don’t want to pull a cracker, eat your Uncle John’s left over sprouts or listen to any more Michael Buble, all of that is absolutely fine too.
Create your own festive ritual. Sometimes even some memories are too hard to face, and Christmas can really remind you of that. In this case, scrap your old traditions. There is nothing wrong with starting entirely afresh. We like to light a candle for my Dad, and I privately always say a few words just to let him know I am thinking of him. If your old routine was to sleep in and open presents later in the day, get up early and go for a long walk. Come back and tackle the rest of the day one step at a time. You do it your way, and that is absolutely okay.
Try to laugh. Whether it takes a full box set of Will Ferrell movies, four episodes of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights or watching your family members drink far too much Christmas punch, dig down inside you and try and have a giggle. I love hearing old family stories about all the silly things Dad used to do, it is hard at first but it gets easier. Laughter really does help you to heal. *squeezes hand*
What would your loved one want you to do. When I first lost my Dad, I was asked this a lot, and even though at the time I felt numb and empty, it really did help. My Dad was the life and soul of a party, and he certainly would not be impressed if I was miserable. It was his favourite time of year, so why would I let him down and spend it feeling sad? Ask yourself the same.
Personally, I have tried everything from being on my own to being with family. Hands down, the times I surrounded myself with my friends and family, and lots of noise and distraction, this for me made everything much more bearable. Christmas will never be the same without my Dad, but I have now got to a place where I look forward to feeling festive. Being with my family is the most important thing in the world and this is the one time of year where I get to spoil them, just as my Dad did with me.
Loss and heartache do not define you. They are just a part of your story.
Ultimately, there is no quick fix or solution to help make this time of year easier for any of us grieving for our loved ones. This will be a unique process for each individual. Only now ten years on, do I feel I can talk about my experience and what little things helped me at this time of year. Whatever stage you are at in dealing with your loss, just know that there will always be someone to support you, when you are ready. Day by day, month by month and year on year, it gets a little better.
Sending you all so much love.
Need to talk? Reach me over on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org