Twelve weeks after my son died it was Christmas. As you can imagine it’s all very hazy now 8 years has passed. Some things stay with me. My daughter was in a ward at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. They had pretty much told me she would either die soon or remain in a vegetative state then die. Merry Christmas.
I was in an intense state of compounded grief, the term that is given to someone grieving for multiple people or things at one time. I was grieving because i had lost my my beautiful 10 year old son, I was grieving for the loss of his future and all the hopes and dreams for him. I was grieving for my daughter’s lost future also and being told to prepare myself for her death. How do you ever really “prepare” for something like that?
That Christmas morning I held my daughter on my lap and opened a present with her. She was considered vegetative, but I knew otherwise. Telling her it was Christmas and how she was loved so very much, bawling, tears of fear. Fear that she might not make another Christmas. Tears of loss, because my son was gone. Tears of frustration with the public health system. Tears of a failed relationship, my dysfunctional relationship was coming to an end. So many tears. It was excruciating, Christmas trees and decorations looked like a shining reminder of all that I had lost…
I LOVE CHRISTMAS! Ask anyone who knows me, it’s a big deal. Gift giving is my love language and Christmas gives me the opportunity to LOVE big time. Going back to childhood my Mum was hilarious, she loved Christmas as much as us five kids. Midnight after wrapping multiple presents she would stomp up and down the hallway saying “ho ho ho”, hoping to wake one of us to give us an early Christmas present..So funny. I’m pretty sure I got the Christmas spirit from her. As soon as I can tree goes up and decorating begins..A beautiful madness.
The first Christmas after my son’s death I sat on the beach with an esky. Blind drunk and pretending it was just another day. I was broken. So broken I don’t remember anything else.Sometimes when in the thick of trauma and loss it feels as though the world keeps going at a rapid pace and you are somehow stuck, stuck in limbo and wondering if you will ever reconnect to rest of the world again. It is so very hard. Each day you get up and get dressed is a win. Telling yourself “well done” with each tiny step. So disconnected from everything else that was part of your normal makes it hard to deal with peoples day to day bullshit. It’s so important to keep hearing from your friends and family. As irritating as it can be you need to here there is a world still moving forward. A silly story or something funny that can maybe bring a small smile to your face, so important.
I often talk about gratitude, finding one thing to be greatful for each day, even when in the thick of things. That Christmas I was greatful to breathe and that felt like a struggle.
The next few years Christmas was still so very hard, but I still sang jingle bells, decorated the house, had all my family over and celebrated as much as I could. Amongst all my pain and grief I was very aware that my youngest son (who was 2 at the time of the accident) needed a Mum who participated in life, a Mum who parenting him through love not pain.
I would make a trip to the cemetery each Christmas morning. For some the cemetery brings them peace. For some it makes them feel connected to their loved ones. We all experience life so differently. The cemetery brings me back to trauma and pain. It takes me to a place where I feel like my son died that day and my daughter is close to death. It brings me no peace. PTSD is a cruel bitch and the cemetery is the biggest trigger. I continued to go to my sons grave for 6 years, feeling that it was what was expected and what was the “right thing” to do. It made my Christmas sad when I wanted to experience love and joy with my family.
One day I decided enough was enough. I had been working towards wellness for some time and decided to only go to the cemetery once a year and that time wouldn’t be Christmas any more.
The last couple of years have been so much better. In time grief becomes less raw, you always miss your loved ones, but you can begin to love and enjoy the things you loved with them, without them too.
My son’s name was Callum. It’s important to say the names of our passed loved ones out loud. It’s important to include them in conversations, it’s important when someone you know loses a loved one to not pretend they didn’t exist. They did and they still do. They are very much with us, in our hearts, in our memories and in spirit. I am Mum to four beautiful children. One with the stars and three on earth, but I still am Mum to four.
Each year Callum sends me a sign. It’s usually a lizard or some kind of creepy crawly. A few years ago a lizard walked in the front door that had been left open, walked into the lounge room and crawled about the presents under the Christmas tree!! I am not even kidding! I laughed and said “OK Callum, I hear you, you want me to remember you and your love for Christmas”…I took it as a sign that it was time to love Christmas again.
Another time hundreds of dragon flies flew down and hung around in my front yard. Then disappeared. It was amazing. I wonder what this years sign will be.
So, what is the point of this story? I hope I can help just one person this Christmas time.
If you are in the thick of grief it does get better, it does take time.
Take as much time as you need to process things, but remember if you have small children they still need you.
Your grief is yours not your childs. Try to parent through love not loss.
Make your own traditions. If your families traditions bring you sadness, make ones that bring you Joy.
Our loved ones want happiness for us not pain. I can’t imagine one lost loved one who wants you or I to stay eternally sad. You can let go of pain and not let go of the memories.
Surround yourself with loving, positive people who bring you Joy. If your blood relatives bring you stress and misery it is perfectly OK to dump them this Christmas and find those who welcome you with open arms. If they don’t like that tell them it was my idea.
Just wingin it
Wearing : Release
Diffusing : Christmas spirit
Listening to : ABC for kids
Disclaimer : I am not a health care professional. If you or a loved one are not coping seek help. Your GP is a good start or for immediate assistance