For me, Christmas is bittersweet. On one hand, there is the joy and magic of Christmas, and the fun and delight of family time but I balance that out with the lingering sense of loss and grief that tinges it with sadness for me, and probably always will.
We have all the fun of planning and preparation, two excited children, shopping, cooking, seeing family, going to fun Christmas events, and just relaxing together in between eating too much good food.
But, in the background, I still feel a little tender pain.
You see, my mum died, 22 years ago, over Christmas. To be precise, on Boxing Day. That Christmas, we spent most of our time either in hospital, by her bed, in the ICU as she fought for her life, and we stood helplessly by, not knowing what would happen, with snatches of time at home, trying to rest, with family and friends who had come to be with us, during that time, and also trying to keep some sense of normal, for my brother and I.
It was a horrifically painful time, for us all, and those memories, whilst they have faded, will never go away. It has got easier over time, to find the joy in Christmas and this season, especially with my children nowhere to bring delight and life to things. I don’t mope or make a big fuss about how I feel (although certain Christmas songs and carols still make me cry, even now Hark The Herald Angels sing brings tears to my eyes, it was her favorite carol) and life has moved on, from that painful time, as it should.
But I resent being told that I need to get over my grief and move on, or the assumption that because it was 22 years ago, and almost a lifetime away, that I shouldn’t feel that pain anymore and I don’t feel guilty or that there is something wrong with me for feeling this way. Grief and loss do not go away, or stick to convenience and we live a life tinged by what we have been through, and the memories of those we have lost, that we wish were still with us…
She was my mum. She wasn’t perfect, no one is. (although having my own children now has given me clarity and a realization of motherhood that I didn’t have when she was alive, I wish I could tell her that!) but she was my mum, and she was loved and I am still allowed to miss her, and feel sad that she isn’t here. To miss her presence in this time, to regret that she can’t enjoy seeing her grandchildren opening presents or help me cook Christmas dinner (and I have no doubt we would have squabbled a lot over that bit, she and I were very similar, opinionated and strong willed) and it’s ok that I may retreat to the kitchen for the odd moment to pull myself together and not let the emotion overwhelm me, because I don’t want to make my grief, still there, if not as raw, so evident for those who don’t understand or might feel uncomfortable. It’s ok for me to say that I miss her, even now. It’s ok for me to talk to my children about her, and to share memories from my childhood and laugh, to remember her.
The loss of a parent, particularly, for me, loosing my mother, has a huge impact, and it’s not something you “get over”. You learn to live a new life without them, you get on, and you do move on, and your grief eases. But like a physical scar, it’s always there, and mine is still tender and twinges slightly, especially at this time of year. I am not ashamed of that, and I want to be open about it, because I know there are others out there who have just lost their mum’s or are still grieving the loss, be it recently fresh, or a longer time ago. It’s ok. We are allowed to feel grief, it’s right and normal. She was your mum, and you miss her and this time of year can be beautiful but bittersweet, I know.
I write this for myself but for those of you out there who have lost and feel that pain, and I send my love and even if I don’t know you, I share your pain, and for those who don’t know this pain, that can’t be explained to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Let us have our grief, amongst the joy…
Christmas is bittersweet, allow me my grief…