A story of grief by a man and a boy

significant dates

This is a guest post by a widower called Chris Jones.

A software developer from Kensal Green, Chris was widowed at 46 leaving him the sole parent to three young daughters aged ten, six and one. He shares his experience of creating new rituals to mark significant dates.

Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries take on a whole new meaning when the person with whom you celebrated is no longer there.

My dear wife Joy died suddenly in May 2006 when an aneurism in her brain burst, leaving myself and our three daughters (aged 10, 6 and 22 months at the time) to try to rebuild a family life when the heart of that family had been ripped out and taken from us so suddenly.

My daughter’s second birthday was just six weeks after her mother died. Despite the army of family and friends on hand supporting us and trying to make it a special day for little Mili, it was a terrible ordeal for me. Once we had sung Happy Birthday and Mili had blown out the candles on her cake, I sat in the garden on my own and bawled my eyes out. The whole thing just seemed so wrong without Joy.

As the months went by and Christmas approached, I panicked at the thought of me and my three girls sitting round a table wearing paper hats and eating turkey. But then I remembered a friend had told me that Malaga was nice in December and without thinking twice I logged onto the internet and booked the flights.

First though came Joy’s birthday, three and a half weeks before Christmas Day. Joy had always loved her birthday so much and we always marked the occasion in a big way. I told my bereavement counsellor how very much I was dreading it and he came up with a really helpful idea for which I will always be grateful.

It’s not possible to ignore important family days such as birthdays but it’s inevitable that they can never feel the same as before. The celebrations you once shared sadly become painful reminders of loss. So my counsellor suggested replacing old rituals with new.

A fully formed idea leapt straight into my head. It was like a message from heaven. Joy’s birthday would become the day when we decorated the house for Christmas. We would fill our home with light and sparkle. It would be something we could do together as a family, and it would become a day of positive remembrance rather than sadness and gloom.

The girls were very excited – tinsel and glitter were everywhere. I helped them light candles in the window so they could shine into the night sky. We created light in the face of the darkness and it felt so good.

Now every December 1st since we do the same. More often than not we have a house full of little helpers – the girls’ friends love the idea and always want to be involved.

We found a great way to turn Joy’s birthday into a big celebration, just what she always loved.

And as for Christmas Day on the Costa del Sol? Well the Spanish hotel was fun and the experience was just different enough to feel like an adventure rather than a sad and empty day.

11 comments on “significant dates

  1. Ian
    February 6, 2013

    What an uplifting way to turn a potentially annual nightmare into one of celebration for you.

    Nice work.

  2. Michelle
    February 6, 2013

    Hi Chris
    thanks for sharing this , I to lost my husband from a aneurism in the brain in dec 2005 two weeks before Christmas leaving me and my three young daughters, I think your idea of putting the decorations up and making it a fun day is such a good idea , I’m going to try that this year . I was also given an idea from a friend as my youngest only just five then was struggling to understand where Daddy was , I told her to look up at the sky at night and find the brightest star & that was Daddy’s star showing her he was still looking over her, This had the most charming effect on her she found his star every night and then started to sleep really well which she had struggled to do till then.

    • Chris
      February 6, 2013

      You’ve made my day Michelle, I know it’s a bit early but please let me wish you a Happy Christmas

      • Michelle
        February 7, 2013

        Thanks Chris & I hope you & your girls are doing well

    February 6, 2013

    Wonderful idea Chris,
    I cannot express how much I love that people are coming together and sharing their grief and helping themselves and each other throughout the journey.
    for this I thank you

  4. Jenny Mein
    February 6, 2013

    I enjoyed reading Chris’s post. So uplifting and inspiring. Christmas can be so desolate and sad without the ones you love coupled with the added pressure of not having the “nice happy traditional family” at that time of year and I agree enjoying the simpliest things are always the best. When your children are happy then you are happy, nothing else matters.

  5. Judy
    February 6, 2013

    My dear mother died on December 1st many years ago. She was only 55 and I still mourn her leaving. It doesn’t go away, but it does get different in a way easier to manage on a day to day basis. We chose, too, to not wallow in our sadness, but celebrate. She loved Christmas and would have been saddened that her not being here would have been the end of our celebrations. The first year was a fog, but I being the only girl- at 25, I felt still a girl…took charge as we decorated the tree and house. As I touched everything she had so lovingly touched and celebrated her I felt guided by her. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I feel her legacy guides me. What a wonderful tradition you started to honor someone you loved (and still love) so much.

  6. Fiona
    February 6, 2013

    One of life’s biggest skills – turning darkness into light, obstacles into opportunities. Bringing ceremony into our lives is something that resonates from pre history. We love it. There’s never enough.

  7. Jessica
    February 7, 2013

    I lost my Dad 10 years ago and we still always look for the brightest star in the Sky too. It’s a lovely idea as it works at any age.

  8. sophiewellstood
    February 9, 2013

    This is beautifully written and very moving. And such a great idea – your girls will be so thankful to you for this.

  9. Sofy Winston
    May 23, 2014

    This is a great post. Now I just need to think of what we can do on Nov 15th, too late for Guy Fawkes to early for Christmas hmmmm

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