This is my second Christmas without my little boy, Ned, who died in a car crash on Good Friday last year. He was 5-years-old. That day shattered my heart, destroyed me. Grief is the cruellest infliction on a human.
Grief never goes away. It has often been described as the ocean. Calm and breaking gently on the shoreline on some days. Angry and vicious, battering waves threatening to drown you on others.
There are always triggers that make days, even parts of the day more difficult. After losing a child, Christmas is definitely one of the most difficult times of the year.
How are you expected to get through this time of the year that’s meant to be filled with magic and merriment, when the pain is sharper and the sadness deeper?
I don’t have the answer, but I thought I’d share some ideas that have been offered to me by the professionals who help me on how to get through this horrendous time …
1) I’ve created #NedAdvent this year, to help me look through photos of Ned. It has been painful, but with a purpose, I’ve been able to lose myself in my memories. I see it as a gift to Ned. I can’t leave a present under the tree for him, so I’m sharing to keep his memory alive.
2) To get through the Christmas holidays I have to have a plan in place. I have to know what we’ll be doing every day, otherwise I feel like I’m drowning. For Christmas Day, the plan will be hour by hour. I will focus on each hour and feel relief at the end of each one.
3) I will fill the time with close friends and family. Even if you don’t have the energy to make much of a conversation, just having them there is enough, especially if you have other children. They can distract your other children and help keep things as ‘normal’ as possible.
4) Accept the sadness. It can’t be avoided. Cry with your family and friends – they shouldn’t be afraid of your tears.
5) Find time to have some space and peace by yourself. For me, this will be at Ned’s graveside where I will let the sadness flow out of me. I will allow myself to feel the emotions that threaten to overwhelm me and release them. Cry, scream, punch a pillow. Whatever helps.
6) Talk about your child. Share in the memories. Your child may not be there as a physical presence, but they are there in your hearts and deserve to be spoken about.
7) Do something different to what you used to do – form a new tradition. This could be anything from when you usually open presents to where you spend Christmas. I don’t know what ours will be yet, but we’ll choose something.
8) If you have other children, make sure that they know that it’s ok for them to be happy. It’s ok for them to laugh. This doesn’t mean that they’re not thinking of your lost child. Allow them to enjoy Christmas. Children need this.
9) If possible, get out of the house as a family on Christmas Day. Go for a walk somewhere just to get some fresh air.
10) Don’t put pressure on yourself. If things don’t go as you planned, that’s ok. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Christmas will be painful, it will be sad and you will feel an overwhelming emptiness. Go with this, don’t try to fight it. You will get through it.
I am filled with dread, sadness and a suffocating emptiness when I think about Christmas Day. But I have to get through it for my two other boys. I’m not strong. I’m in a very dark place, but somehow I’ll do it. And so can you.