I love Christmas. I always have loved it and I’m pretty confident I always will. Also by ‘love’ I don’t mean I enjoy it for the few weeks leading up to and including it – I mean I have an over the top, probably very irritating and all-consuming LOVE for it. The lights, the sparkles, seeing my family and the fact that everyone is generally that little bit nicer are among the many reasons why Christmas is my favourite time of year. However, Christmas, as I’m sure everyone knows, is also a really hard time for many people, especially for people like me who have lost a loved one.
Just over a year ago my long-term boyfriend’s mum passed away from cancer. It was a really hard year and much of that time I remember in a blur; I spent basically all of my mental capacity trying to make sure my boyfriend was coping and I wouldn’t fail the essays that helpfully had deadlines a couple of weeks later. One thing I do remember is Christmas.
For the first time I couldn’t get excited because I knew it was going to be tough and the feeling of dread that started to grow was, oddly, worse than the actual moments of grief and sadness that came. If anything, although it was heart-breaking and emotional, there were moments of joy that took everyone completely by surprise. New traditions were started as the family all pulled together to try and make it through the tough time and though I know we would give those up in a heartbeat to have our loved one back, they still gave us a silver lining to the cloud that loomed.
For the sake of Christmas spirit I really wanted to end on an uplifting note that shows how, a year on from the first Christmas, everything is much easier and time has healed the wounds grief caused. But, I can’t because the wounds may have healed, but they are still very prominent scars. In many ways the second year is harder because you expect things to be so much easier, when in reality, the emptiness is still there and the person you turn expecting to see laughing along with everyone else is still not. This year I have realised and had to come to terms with the permanence of bereavement and the fact that every year will be a little bit sad from now on.
That sounds very depressing but actually it is so much easier to have realised that than to spend every major event trying to pretend that everything is ok because you’ve done it before. Or, worse still, spending your time trying to force thoughts of the person from your head because you are so afraid of crying and ruining the good mood if you let yourself dwell, which I’ve found just makes you feel guilty and ashamed, like you’re trying to forget them in some way. Accepting the sadness is so much less exhausting. This year I know what to expect, I know how those moments of emptiness when something feels like its missing will feel and how to cope with them. I am excited for Christmas this year, maybe not as excited as I was a few years ago, but still, I’ve watched every Netflix Original Christmas special and I’m excited about the fact that I love Christmas again.