Christmas || Grief
I love Christmas.
Let me rephrase that, I adore Christmas, and everything associated with it.
But the problem is, my late step-mom also adored Christmas.
I know that a lot of people have lost someone in their lives, and I thought that I would write this post both for people who have lost people and for people who are lucky enough that they have not. Because some people seem to think that you don't grieve at Christmas, as if it all magically disappears with reindeer dust or something.
People expect you to be happy at Christmas. People expect you to be happy all year round really, but the festive season is the time when you have to be unquestionably happy.
In most people's minds the rule is that if your face isn't aching, then you aren't trying hard enough.
Grief is one of those things that doesn't disappear but when you add in the "Christmas happiness" factor it can sometimes make things worse.
Particularly when the loved one that you lost, loved Christmas.
The thing about Martha was that she adored Christmas and she would be picking at my dad to bring down the decorations from the middle of November. I think that she is one of the main reasons why I adore Christmas so much.
Another thing about Martha was that she had such an extensive collection of Christmas decorations that it would take an entire day to not only decorate the tree but also to fill every crevice with a Christmas figurine.
( I am talking so many little Santa's and Snowmen that if they came to life, we would be in BIG trouble... )
But one of the most important things about Martha was that her love for Christmas was absolutely infectious. You couldn't help but just enjoy it with her.
It was the little details that would always make you smile. The way she wrapped Christmas presents, the dancing sessions to Christmas music around the kitchen, the baking and the never ending smile. There was no such thing as a fake “Christmas face” for her.
Even when she got sick, I said to her “At least we have Christmas”, but she told me that we didn’t. That was a traumatic moment for me for two reasons.
One of them being the obvious realisation about how little time I had left with her, and secondly because I knew that I wouldn’t get to see that excitement again.
When it is all happening, and when you are losing someone, you don’t often think about Christmas. You usually have a lot of other things on your mind, but when it hits. It hits with such a sickening force that for my first Christmas without her, I was terrified.
The thing about Christmas is that you are meant to be happy. It’s the happiest time of year really. But another thing about grief is that you sometimes feel guilty about being happy.
So as you can imagine, that really puts people in a really difficult position.
My first Christmas without her, I was going to spend Christmas with my Dad because I thought that he was going to be alone. But it turns out that he wasn’t, so I decided to take a step back from things and spend it with my Mom.
I didn’t think that I could face Christmas with two people, one of them being my Dad and the other one not being Martha.
But I still did the lead up to Christmas stuff with him.
Shopping for the Christmas tree literally knocked the breath out of me. Martha’s giddy excitement wasn’t there. She wasn’t there celebrating that she had finally convinced Dad that it okay to start decorating.
After buying the tree and bringing it home, I realised that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face Christmas that year.
I felt terrible about it because I felt like I was bringing everyone else down with me. But now I know that it IS okay to be sad.
Christmas is a time of happiness, yes. But that does not mean that you need to force yourself to be happy. Especially not when you are grieving someone.
Now that I am approaching my third Christmas without Martha. I am beginning to see Christmas in a new light. A happier kind of light.
Instead of being crippled by her loss and not being able to deal with the fact that she isn’t here, I smile about the things that she would have enjoyed.
Sometimes it hard to embrace someone in spirit, especially at Christmas but I know that it is a better option and a much healthier option.
Grief at any time of year is hard, but grief at Christmas doesn’t have to be impossible.
I hope that this made Christmas not seem as daunting, because wounds do heal and Christmas can be a time of happiness. To celebrate people's lives rather than grieve them.