As many of my long-time readers know, I have always loved Christmas. I love the songs, the buzz in the shops, carols by candlelight, houses decorated with lights, Christmas trees and decorations, the sense of community in the air…it truly is a magical time of year. Thankfully, my enthusiasm rubbed off on Aidan who also embraced the holiday season with vigour and last year was one of our best Christmases to date. Yet for the last six years, Christmas has also been bittersweet.
Among all the magic, has been a lot of heartache. While this Christmas may well be my hardest, I know for families with terminally ill children the day will also bring a lot of emotion. For many it will be just like any other day, expect with a greater feeling of grief and loss. They will still need to administer medications, change nappies, suction excretions, clean out tubing, etc. It doesn’t matter that it’s a holiday. For these parents and their children, there is no holiday. Some will get to see their child’s face light up when they see presents from Santa, others will grieve because their child gives no reaction to the holiday and at some point during the day they will wonder, why me? Why him/her? They might berate themselves for feeling ungrateful, knowing they are somehow ‘lucky’ to still have their child with them and they will paste on a smile as if all is right with the world. They will watch their nieces and nephews ride sparkly new bikes, or swim in the pool, and feel a tinge of envy for what could have been.
As much as we try and tell ourselves ‘it’s just one day’, for those who celebrate this annual event, it holds so much more significance. There is something sadder about a person dying at Christmas time and many families just hope to have that one last Christmas together. For us, we were fortunate to celebrate Christmas in July at Bear Cottage in the week prior to Aidan’s death. The photo from that day, the only one I will ever have of my two boys together with Santa, has now become one of my most treasured possessions. To some people, it might seem odd that I place such value on a photo of my two boys together with a strange man in a red suit, others will get it completely. I know Bear Cottage had a Facebook post recently of a family who celebrated Christmas in October. It was obviously important to them to have one last Christmas and I’m sure they too will treasure those memories dearly.
I have been reading a lot about depression at Christmas and one piece of advice really resonates with me. It comes from Psychology Today:
“Don’t accept any “perfect” representation of Christmas that the media, institutions or other people try to make you believe. Lower your expectations and any attachment to what it should look like; be present and enjoy each moment as best you can.”
I’m going to try and do this this year but I also know it’s is easier said than done. So for all of you struggling with loss, living with a terminally ill loved one or spending the day in hospital, I send you all my very best wishes and hope the magic of Christmas touches you in some small way.