A story of grief by a man and a boy
A few weeks ago I launched a rather scathing attack on Christmas in a post I published on this blog. I was feeling exceptionally low at the time, and perhaps a touch angry at the world around me too. After facing a series of ‘firsts’ (a popular abbreviation in grief circles, which means significant calendar dates experienced for the first time since a loved one’s death), the prospect of going through my second Christmas without my wife felt daunting. I simply didn’t want to be a part of the celebrations. I got irritated about it for a while and came close to completely writing it off, before making a promise to myself that I’d just take it in my stride. I’d face it without putting myself under any real pressure to try to make it anything other than a day with a big roast dinner and some presents for my little boy.
One thing I did learn from all of last year’s ‘firsts’ was that most of the suffering came in the run up to the dates that I was dreading, rather than the actual days themselves. I figured that I might be able to make Christmas easier on myself if I could find a way of spending less time dreading it and more time not even thinking about it. Relaxing into the season and treating December no differently to any other month – save inviting a tree to spend a month in my living room, eating enough sugar to keep my dentist in business for life and buying myself a gift every time I bought one for anyone else – actually helped make it really quite nice.
Christmas has given me the opportunity to spend almost all of my time with my son, Jackson. Over the course of last year, I realised that I could learn a lot from this small child if I could try to take the time to stop constantly imposing my often blinkered adult lessons on him. This Christmas he taught me that he doesn’t really care about presents at all; he cares about spending proper time with his dad. He showed me that it is possible to enjoy the times that I dread if I let him lead and make our days together fun.
This morning I was about to slip back to the (emotional) place I was at when I wrote my attack on the festive season in late November. I was ready to pack the decorations away and say good riddance to it all when Jackson reminded me that there are in fact twelve days of Christmas. It seemed that he hadn’t stopped enjoying himself yet, and so with just a few days left to go he put a smile back on my face and helped me understand why it hasn’t been so bad after all…