Nothing on this earth can prepare you for the death of a loved one. Expected or not, shock overtakes the body. It’s primal and visceral and painful. You feel frozen in the moment, like Father Time’s clock has stopped ticking and fleetingly trapped you in your pain.
For me, this year was a grieving Christmas. I lost my great-uncle in July. He was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever been blessed to have known and most of all, he was my best friend.
My grief comes and goes but over the Christmas season I found myself backed into a corner by it at the drop of a hat. It’s the things that remind me of him, they seem to be nowhere and everywhere all at once. I walk into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, open the press, and I nearly keel over. He put our kitchen in. He put the tiles on the walls, screwed the handles to the doors, moved the sockets.
You can try to brush off something like that, until one day it just doesn’t work. The picture of us on the wall, walking up a hill in Kerry laughing as it lashed out of the heavens, had to be taken down. Not to be replaced, just moved out of sight until I can brave seeing his face.
Christmas seemed to contort my grief into something I wasn’t sure I could handle. He loved Christmas. Never one for opening presents himself, he always gave the most thoughtful gifts. He constantly had everything he could ever need and buying presents for him was like having to take part in an Olympic heptathlon without ever taking a step in your life.
Not buying him his presents this year was difficult. You see things in the shops that he would’ve laughed at as he reluctantly opened them and reach to buy them, only to realise you’ve got no one to give them to anymore. You don’t have your person to help find your mam a Christmas present like no other. You’re on your own with that one now.
This year, I learned a lot about working through these feelings. I made sure to talk about him, however painful it was. I made sure to tell others about him, how he was the one who showed me how to use a drill and hang a picture frame. I made his favourite meals, drank his favourite drinks, and even had the courage to visit him.
These little things made everything else that tiny bit easier. I’m not saying that I’m thriving, because I’m not. I had my couldn’t get out of bed days and my if you even look at me, I’ll break down days. But I had way more good days than I expected. The bad days were bad, but the good days were better.
It’s difficult to navigate, this grief thing. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. There’s no instruction manual on how to get through it, let alone a chapter on how to get through Christmas. All you can do is keep taking each day as it comes. There will be good ones and there will be days where all you can do is stay in bed. And that is totally ok.
This Christmas, I let myself have my bad days. I celebrated every small victory, even if all I did that day was brush my teeth, make a sandwich and camp out on the couch watching movies all day with my mam in silence. Christmas was overwhelming. And I needed that day to let out all the big feelings of anxiety and grief allow them to wash away.
So, if your Christmas was missing a special someone remember that there are so many other people who were experiencing this too. You are not alone in your feelings of hurt and despair. Take each day as it comes. Don’t rush yourself in your grieving, it’s a process and you can take as long as you need to get through it. You’re stronger than you believe.
And with that, Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise! 2022 is our year everyone. You can do it.