Last Christmas was so unbearably sad. My eight year old nephew had passed away on the 17th December and we just did not know how to make our way through the ‘season of joy’. Everything was bitter, cold and so very dark.
Every year, for the past 13 years we have been living in Ireland, we have spent Christmas together with my sister and her family. Either they have come to us in Ireland or we have gone over to the UK to be with them and it is one of the highlights of our year. There was no ‘light’ in the highlight last year, we flew over a few days early as we needed to be with them for the funeral of their younger son on the 23rd.
My sister is also one of my closest friends: we are not afraid of telling one another when we have hurt each other, we forgive one another easily and we share the same sense of humour. When we phone each other it is usually as the other was just about to pick up the receiver. I haven’t been able to know what it’s like for her in her darkest moments but I do know how much I hurt as his aunt and godmother and that’s bad enough.
So this year with the build up to Christmas, we are not sure how to proceed. We can’t face the thoughts of celebrating – celebrations are supposed to be happy events. I have to say that seeing the Christmas stuff in the shops right now makes me feel a bit sick.
I know there are many parents out there who have had to endure this sadness every year and they have learnt how to navigate each anniversary. I feel like we need help and advice, somehow we have to integrate our sadness within the good things that Christmas represents.
Based on my sister and her husband’s wishes we have decided to go back to their home again this year instead of the usual swap. Traditionally we would have gone to the Christmas Eve service in their village which is very child orientated. We couldn’t face it last year and I’m still not sure whether I can this year although I feel that worship is central to the day.
I am grateful we have the children to share Christmas with. They have a very different perspective to adults on grief and loss. Sometimes a bit of normality and continuation of tradition is healthiest for them. I know this year I will be looking though their eyes a bit more to find the wonder in Christmas. I will also be seeking ways to remain grounded in the message of hope that the day represents as this is the message that brings light to the darkness. Like the Wise Men, I will be following the star which pointed to the Light of the world.
I am not going to be focused on the fluff, the stuff, we have enough.
I wouldn’t mind if you’d like to share any ideas that helped your family remember a child at Christmas time.