The thought of an empty space at the table this year crushes our soul, leaving a dry dusty taste in our mouth. It doesn't matter whether its for the first time or more, the pain of Christmas without someone we love doesn't have a time limit or expiry date.
With all kinds of grief, guilt can rear its ugly head and ask us if we loved and cherished them enough and did they know the height and depths of our love. Thoughts and memories can flicker through our 'home theatre', bringing up events and situations that are best left on the editing room floor. Special Occasions have a habit of dredging up old pain, hurts and anguish.
As we walk around the shopping centres, we try not to notice couples walking hand in hand; the excitement as they choose gifts for others and surprise each other with tender well thought out gifts. Some of us find it difficult to be a part of the joy that is the festive season, we'd rather just hide away from the world, but thats not how it works is it? Life goes on whether we want to be a part of it or not. There are obligations and duties to be met, even at Christmas. We avoid the card stands shouting 'To My Darling Wife/Partner At Christmas', or 'To The Man I Love At Christmastime'. We already know that looking will only create that damp and prickly feeling behind our eyelids. Often we will catch ourselves sighing as we look at 'couple presents' or gifts that would have been ideal for that special person who has passed. As we listen to couples bickering and badgering each other as they pass, we want to reach out and shake them, reminding them how lucky they are to be together; to be able to share such precious moments that we can never have again. In a far off thought, we know that we won't have that wonderful pleasure of waking up next to our significant other and relishing the best gift of all, a Christmas morning snuggle.
If we have lost a parent, then this time of year brings a different kind of pain. Those that brought us into the world are no longer here to share the joy of this Christmas, as well as the memories of our childhood misdemeanors and achievements. Celebrating without those who loved us, no matter what we said or did while they were alive, is harder than hard. The joy of greeting, the hugs, smiles and innate connection we have with our parents cannot be replicated within any relationship. Even if we weren't as close as some, or as we would have liked to be, there was an intangible thread that was woven around and though us all, and somehow, made us part of a whole.
Celebrating Christmas after a child has passed has its own tumultuous heights and despairing lows. We all believe our children will out-live us. They have so much ahead of them, that we would have wished for them to experience and be a part of. It doesn't matter how old our child was, the pain is still heart-stoppingly deep and pain drenched. There are no words that can possibly explain that knife twisting ache, as we see other babies, children, teenagers or adults enjoying the build up to the festive season. We often imagine what our child would be doing at this time of the year, what amazing gifts they brought into our lives by just being here. If there are other family members of the same age, it can make it difficult to visit various departments of stores, knowing we won't be buying anything for our child. As Christmas fast approaches, we feel an ache that nothing can ease, as we imagine a day without that special part of our life, the child we created, the person we knew for all of their short life.
Often the pain of what we have lost makes it hard to appreciate what we have right here, right now. Sometimes we need to remember that those who have passed never really leave us, for we have only to think of them and their voice or face will appear within our memory. The love we feel for them remains locked in our hearts. No one can take that away, It can't be stolen, dwindled or diminished. Although they aren't around us physically, they are still here, as we discuss the joys and disasters of Christmas past. As we eat their favourite foods, we bring them into our circle of love, those fond memories creating a softness around us and this day. Sure there will be tears amongst the laughter and happiness of a Christmas Day, and thats perfectly normal, because that is a part of honouring the amazing connection we have and will always have with those who have passed from this world.
If we aren't fortunate enough to have a Christmas surrounded by family and friends, Christmas Day can be just another day of pain and grief. If this is what your Christmas Day looks like, please reach out to a family member, friend or even a neighbour, allow them to know how much you are dreading this day. There is no pride in grief, pride just prevents us from connecting with the world around us. We are not a rock or an island. We do need others to help us through the tough times. There is no weakness in reaching out or admitting that Christmas sucks big time for us. Make this your Christmas gift to you - let those who care about you know how you are feeling. Allow them to help. You would do the same if the roles were reversed. Above all, be kind to you!