Courageous Christmas Grief
For some of us the Christmas period may not be a happy time, instead bringing dark clouds.
For me, Christmas is a time of year where my grief is felt constantly.
Grief is personal – it evolves and grows with you.
Grief is emotional, physical, behavioural, social, cognitive, spiritual and philosophical.
Grief once consumed me – it dictated every part of me and my life.
Death is the catalyst, but what forms my grief is the journey that lead to death, and the journey that has followed it.
Over a 7-year period I watched both my parents die – cancer tore them apart, literally. Seeing the strongest people I knew wither to a shell of themselves is something that forever changes you. In hindsight Mum’s death was peaceful, she ‘slept’ for her final weeks, surrounded by the those who loved her. Dad’s on the other hand was traumatic – although surrounded by those who loved him, a very different and shattering experience.
To this day I get flash backs – that stop me in my tracks. I could be driving to work, lying in bed or at lunch with a group of friends and the image of my Dad in a coffin will be the only thing I can see.
Jealously has grown as a result of my grief. Seeing a Mum and daughter getting a manicure done together, or a Dad and daughter getting a coffee and vanilla slice on a Sunday morning – yes, the day’s dedicated to these relationships like Mothers and Father’s Day hurt, but it’s the small things, on a daily basis, that grow’s my jealousy.
Life milestones are a strange phenomenon - getting married, buying first homes, having babies, being promoted or chasing my dreams – the clash of pure happiness and pure sadness; knowing they should be there, would do anything to be there yet they aren’t, but in some small, strange way, feel their presence.
I had dark days, where I wouldn’t and couldn’t get out of bed, where I didn’t just cry, but felt silent – and I truly hope they have passed for good. But the worst days were when life started again, post funeral where everyone else moves on, but you are stuck – you have to go back to work, or university, or the gym, but you are purely doing the motions, you aren’t present or engaged. You feel just as broken as you did the day they died, yet you are getting up, getting dressed and getting on with things regardless of your new emotional baggage; it’s tough – but this is where we grow stronger.
We fast forward a few years and I go to cook a family receipt and think ‘I’ll just call Mum and ask what ingredients I need’, or I kick a goal at work and automatically pick up the phone to call Dad, to the extent I press the call button (yes, he is still saved in my favourites). These moments make me sad, but what scares me most is thinking I might grow out of these habits…
I feel my grief in my bones. It’s an ache that is so severe that I feel like I can crumble at any moment. Although my moments of crumbling a becoming less frequent, I know I have a lifetime of them to come.
Grief is personal, and it comes in all shapes and sizes – you may grieve a person, a place, a pet, a feeling – whatever it is, its valid; and don’t ever think otherwise. For those Courageous Ladies tackling their own grief journey this Christmas period - don’t be afraid to seek help, you don’t need to bare the load alone.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Grief Line: 1300 845 745