Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christmas-not always the best time of the year!

Christmas is the time of year where families come together and celebrate. It is a time for being together as a family, having fun and generally having a good time. Most of the time if your lucky, that is exactly what happens. Unfortunately, life is not always like that. Christmas can also be the hardest time of the year if, for instance you've lost someone close that year or some other negative life changing event has happened.

I was 10 when I first found out that Christmas can be difficult. It wasn't really anything specific that happened, it was more just a sense that something wasn't quite right. I only knew that the adults were acting funny and that on Boxing Day my brothers and sister and I were left with a sitter while my mum and dad went off for the day. My dad especially seemed to be crying a lot. I found out a few weeks later that my paternal grandfather had died and his funeral had been on Boxing Day!

The next difficult Christmas I experienced was in 1974 after my brother who was only 13 years old, died suddenly in October that year. To be honest I don't even remember it; I think that it was so awful that I just blanked it out! Two years later my father and I spent a solitary Christmas, both in tears, as my mum and dad had split up earlier that year and it was decided that my mum and younger sister should be with my other sister and her family, for the sake of my little sister who was only a child. I never questioned this, I fully excepted that my feelings didn't matter.

I was fortunate to meet and marry a lovely man and for the first 5 years of our marriage we spent reasonably happily either with his family or mine. Although trying to accommodate divorced parents who didn't get on was a challenge!When our son was born Christmas became magical again. We bought him presents and endeavoured to make it a truly amazing time for him.

Then followed the dark times I've already written about. Losing 2 babies and going through a difficult pregnancy where I ended up wheelchair bound, just to ensure the safety of my unborn child, resulted in my becoming severely depressed for several years, and resulted in Christmas becoming a time to dread rather than celebrate!

But I don't want this to be a depressing post. Instead I want to focus on the positive. Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, I'm still standing and more importantly, I can say that I'm enjoying life! At this time of year, of course I remember the difficult times, but I can now appreciate how much I have to be thankful for. I'm still here, I have 2 fantastic sons, I'm still married ( no mean feat these days after 35 years) and I have my first grandchild. The way I see it, I have a choice. I can either choose to dwell on the negative aspects of my life so far, or I can be thankful and celebrate all that is good in my life right at this moment!

But please don't think that this is a triumphalist, 'pull yourself together' type post. I know how hard this time of year can be when you're going through dark times. I've been there! When you've lost someone or someone close is seriously ill or you're going through some other heartbreaking experience, Christmas can be no friend, but a time that seems to highlight your feelings of loss and loneliness.

I came across this picture on face book. I've had my tears already this season as different situations have brought back painful memories, but when I saw this it reminded me of the blog on ' Letting go'  I wrote saying that the best way to honour those we've loved and lost is by living and making the most of life. Earlier today I was looking at a picture of my husband's aunt who died in December 2004 just after she celebrated her 90th birthday. I found myself talking to her and I realised how true this picture was. Everyone that I've loved and lost are still alive and loved in my heart as long as I'm alive. Hopefully, when I'm gone, I'll live on in the hearts and minds of my family and friends. Perhaps that is what's meant by eternal life!

This may a seem a bit deep and meaningful for this time of year, but wouldn't it be more wrong to completely ignore the fact that this time of year can be extremely painful and difficult for some! I just want to offer sympathy and compassion to those who are struggling. But hopefully some hope too that the future can be different; there is always hope. I share this picture of the eternal flame as a symbol of the spark of life and hope.

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