For a long time I did really well. I kept myself so incredibly busy and so stressed that I didn’t have time to think about it. But eventually of course I ran out of things to do and that day was today, Christmas Eve. I kept myself so busy and stressed in the weeks leading up to today it made me ill. But I thought it would work.
We had so little time to decorate the house and I had to do it in such a rush that there was no time to think about it, I just had to get it done. It was the same thing for the presents, same thing for the cards and for the wrapping. It was just an exhausting battle with no time to think, just trying to get it all done.
But yesterday that crazy whirl started to slow and this morning it slowed down completely. With little left to do and an empty house for the first time, those thoughts and emotions which I have been hiding from have arrived and I have nothing to distract me.
I was absolutely determined that this Christmas would be better. Somehow I just so desperately needed it not to be the awful misery of every Christmas we have had since Nico died. We called him “Mr Christmas”, he loved it so, and the pain of every Christmas since we lost him has been just unbearable.
But this year I thought I could trick it. I would be just so busy there would be no time to think and it would be come and gone in a flash of green, red and gold merry before I had time to really register its presence.
Except that now, on Christmas Eve I find myself exhausted, stressed and alone. My thoughts and emotions cannot be ignored. In time honoured Reed family tradition, Nico’s dad is in the pub and I ought to be watching “Carols from Kings” with Nico while we wrap up presents. I ought to be singing loudly and Nico was always so proud and amazed that I seemed to know every song (I never told him that if I didn’t know I just read the words off the screen and sang them – he never rumbled me). We ought to be sitting in a scene of happy, ribbon and paper strewn chaos and singing our hearts out in front of a roaring fire (no matter what the weather, the fire was obligatory) as Mr Reed comes home.
But I’m never going to do those things again. Perhaps in the end what I need to do is to invent a whole new set of Christmas traditions, rather than try to bury my misery in activities so stressful I can’t think, eat or sleep. There is probably only one way forward and that is to find a new type of Merry Christmas. To be honest I owe it not only to my daughter and my partner, but also to Nico.
It’s still a work in progress. I tried something different this year and it hasn’t really worked. But one thing I have realised is that I am not alone in this. In fact I am one of hundreds of thousands. We are all desperately trying to; if not beat the Christmas misery, not let ourselves drown in it. At this time you year you feel so alone, but the truth is really very different. I am thinking of all of you now.
I’m thinking of every mother who will never need to hang up a stocking up again for the much loved child. Every child and every adult who aches to be held by that much loved parent they will never see again. The agony of a Christmas without the partner you thought you would love forever and grow old with. The pain of a Christmas without that so longed for baby, when everyone else you know seems to have theirs. The empty dull pain of the marriage which can’t be made to work when it seems everyone else’s can. The argument which can’t be healed. The desperate last visits to the hospice. The knowledge that this will definitely be your last Christmas and your fear for the family you leave behind.
These are only some of the people who are struggling to find the Merry this year. If you are one of these people, or if you are one of the people who find life very difficult, lonely, confusing, fearful and sad – you are not alone, you are also one of many.
In fact, when we look at the truth at the heart of it all, Christmas for most people isn’t very merry at all. It calls into sharp focus who is missing and what we have lost. It reminds us of how far our lives are from what we wish they were.
So perhaps, the changes that I made for this year haven’t worked out very well, but there is a new knowledge which I am far more certain of.
I know for sure that I am one of very many people who are faking their way through the festive season. We may not be very merry, but we’re here and we’re trying to do our very best.
I hold out my hand to all of you tonight and I wish a very Merry Christmas to everyone.