****** TRIGGER WARNING – BEREAVEMENT ******
With less than two weeks to go until Christmas, most people are rushing around hastily buying gifts, making food shopping lists and generally getting into the Festive Spirit.
But Christmas time can be a difficult time for many people. The prospect of getting everything organised, lack of funds, lack of time or just too many other things that take priority can cause real anxiety and stress for people. The joy of the day can truly be overshadowed by the aggravation of getting everything ready for it.
This can particularly be said of people with mental health issues, or medical conditions that make even the simplest of tasks an arduous trial. Crowds, people bustling around, and queues can be a nightmare for anyone, but throw in a medical condition or anxiety and it becomes truly tortuous.
And all for the sake of Two days.
If you add to this the recent loss of a family member, it can certainly multiply the negative feelings towards the season of joy and goodwill.
This Christmas is the first Christmas without my Father being here. As many of you know, he passed away suddenly in February of this year.
It seems strange going shopping with my list, and not having him there on It. It didn’t matter what I got him for his present, I would without fail always get him a box of Paynes Milk Chocolate covered Brazil Nuts. A favourite of his.
Seeing them in the shops this year, brings sadness. The knowledge that I don’t have to put them in my basket brings regret.
But why is there regret?
In past years, I admit I was so busy with my own family, that Christmas became a precious commodity. I decided when my children were small that we would always spend Christmas in our own house, so they could play with the toys and gifts they had been given, rather than go out and have to leave all their presents behind.
I certainly don’t regret doing this at all, as the children had fabulous Christmases, doing everything THEY wanted to do. Christmas to me is all about children, and the joy they feel in it all.
However, this meant that I haven’t spent Christmas Day with my parents for many years. This was, as I have said, all of my own choosing. Last year Dad was waiting for some test results, and was told “no news is good news” so we carried on, as per normal.
This was a lie. His results had been misplaced, and several weeks passed before we were made aware that he had an advanced case of Liver Cancer.
By the time we had been given this news, Christmas was over and done with. The very last chance to spend Christmas together was taken away by the words “don’t worry, if you haven’t heard anything, that’s a good thing”
I never for one second imagined that he wouldn’t be around this Christmas. If I had the gift of seeing into the future, would I have done anything different? I am pretty sure I would have altered my plans, and made that effort. But I don’t have that gift, so life just went on as always.
This Christmas signifies the first year my Mum has been on her own during the festive season. I say “alone” but having a massive family, she won’t actually be on her own.
For those of you who know me personally, you will know that Mum looks after her brothers and her Nephew Diverus, who are mentally handicapped. She has done this since the age of 21. For over 50 years this has been her responsibility. One she shared with Dad.
She looks after them, and in their way, they look after her. Especially now that things have changed.
Dad was always the one to decorate the living room. Hanging the shiny ceiling garlands, and trimming up the tree. That was his domain, and Mum would always come in after it was all done and place the little knick-knacks around the room to finish it off.
This past weekend, Mum was poorly with an infection, and Diverus went missing. They live in quite a big house, and he was no-where to be found in the rooms he lives in. Everyone was getting worried, when after a couple of hours he still hadn’t been located.
Being well known in a tiny village, he certainly wouldn’t come to any harm, as everyone knows him, and he knows them. He never forgets a face or name. But he wasn’t in the village at all.
He eventually emerged from the little used “front room”. The one Dad always trimmed up. He took my Mum in the room, and to her surprise he had decorated the whole room. Without anyone’s knowledge.
He got the decorations, and the stepladders and single handedly decorated a room. With no help or assistance.
It might not win any awards for style. And yes, some of the decorations might be a bit wonky or not spaced out evenly. But he put his heart and soul into doing that for her so that she didn’t have to face it herself. He might be mentally handicapped, but even he realised what a difficult thing it might be for her to do.
Why else did he do this? Because he loves Christmas, in a childlike way. And he loves my Mum.
So this year, when you are worrying about how many presents you’ve wrapped, how much the bill is going to cost, whether you have enough jars of pickled onions or even if those decorations look straight…. How about taking a leaf from the “Diverus Handbook”
Do things for love and with love. Material things won’t solve all your problems, or make everyone happy. But time, attention, kindness and love will go a long way.
And instead of getting stressed and anxious, allow yourself some time for you, give yourself some attention, show yourself some kindness and love. After all, you need and deserve these things too.