So this is Christmas….and how are you getting on?
There’s a train of thought that says the grief that follows the death of a spouse should be kept personal. Which is a shorthand for the fact that a lot of people can’t or don’t want to deal with the feelings of the widowed (or bereaved, in general). Or they don’t want to hear that it’s not a clean, upward curve of ‘getting over it’ but a messy splodge of scrabbling around, trying to make sense of what’s happened whilst, at the same time, trying to find some idea of what your future’s going to be. But people keep asking.
The real meaning behind the question is like the real meaning of Christmas: it differs, depending on the individual. They range from “I’m genuinely interested and I’m ready for whatever reaction you have” via “I care and hope you’re not doing badly but please don’t break down because I have no idea what to say or do” to the rictus-grinned “I’m only being polite. I’m really looking to reinforce my own feelings and skirt over yours. Don’t you fucking dare bring me down”.
After years of fielding questions about Trisha’s health deteriorating, you quickly learn to spot which is which. Most people fall into the middle category, which I can understand. There are some notable and very much appreciated exceptions who come into the first category. The latter category is quite easy to deal with, barring the good actors who’ve had a bit of a shock but, frankly, they get what they deserve.
So, how am I getting on? Shit, really. I keep searching for ways to cope – reading books and watching films about bereaved spouses to see if there are any clues I can glean. Some are helpful, others offer an excuse for a good weep and a wallow (Mum’s List – Rafe Spall is very, very good). I know, I know – I don’t need an excuse beyond what’s happened. The films provide cover.
I’m not feeling festive. Trisha left 9 weeks ago on Christmas Day. She absolutely loved Christmas but it feels empty without her. I’m sure anyone who is experiencing or has experienced the first Christmas after bereavement has a similar feeling, even if it varies in intensity. I’ve put a few decorations up but it’s been a real effort. And if I hear Mud’s “Lonely This Christmas” one more time, I am going to let it all out and everyone will just have to cope with it.
I’m tired of the fake smile. I’m tired of trying to keep up in the jollity stakes. Being surrounded by TV and other media images of happy couples and smiling families is particularly hard when mine is shattered. Despite having my mother with me for the past couple of months, I still feel very, very lonely. It’s not easy continually holding back tears. Which probably explains the sleeplessness, panic attacks and periodic meltdowns. Luckily, they’ve only happened at home.
This is not to say that it’s all darkness and shite. I caught myself thinking about what kind of home I want to live in. I don’t mean the bricks and mortar, but what I’d put inside. What I’d put in differently from the furniture I have now. What kind of environment I’d be happy to call home. These are the first little bits of future-thought creeping into my head. Despite them being tiny chinks of bright in comparison with what I’ve written about Christmas, they’re a start. I’ll take that.
So this is Christmas, and this is how I’m getting on. Let’s hope the New Year’s easier. Than the one that’s just gone.