I think it’s usual to want to escape to somewhere hot and sunny the first Christmas after a loss. Somewhere without the usual traditions to remind you of Christmases past and what you’ve lost. A hot beach and plenty of uplifting sunshine was certainly tempting but I felt that I couldn’t “take Christmas away” from the girls and for them Christmas is hanging their stockings outside their bedroom door, waking up in the morning to the excitement that Father Christmas had been to their house and then spending time with family.
In the run up, I stuck to my now-usual plan of trying to do different things and create new memories. That was slightly at odds with what the girls wanted to do so we did repeat some traditions such as going to the local pantomime. We visited Lapland UK near Ascot for the first time (in the photo at the top) and my gosh it was magical and lived up to the hype. The girls loved it but I felt stressed and anxious dealing with two over excited children and being surrounded by families with fathers. The breaking point was when they wanted to go on the ice rink and I didn’t want them to nor go on myself. They begged so much as I tried to explain how difficult it was, that they would fall, they would get wet and that I wouldn’t be there to help them. But, they insisted and off they went. They both fell over immediately as I predicted. Imogen got up and found a penguin to hold onto and carried on. Seren came back to me looking so deflated and admitted it was hard. But, then she went back on and held onto the side and caught up with Imogen and skated a bit my herself. I was so proud of them and how brave and resilient they were. So, of course I cried. And felt guilty that I should be braver and have a go to. Maybe next year.
Christmas sights and sounds seemed to both irritate me and lift my spirits in equal measure. I think that is something about this fearly stage of grief, my emotions are on a perpetual rollercoaster. I can cry, laugh, despair and hope all in the 10 minutes before I finish my morning coffee.
I tackled Andy’s usual Christmas jobs – sourcing a tree and putting the outdoor lights up. I cheated slightly on the tree and got a local company to deliver one. It was THE most beautiful tree we have ever had. 8 foot of tall, thick gorgeousness. Everyone who came to the house commented on it and it still looked lovely in the first week of January. I set the fairy lights on a timer to come on just before I got up in the morning and that lifted me quite a lot. I managed an OK job of getting the outdoor lights up, armed with drawing pins and a kids’ chair to stand on. I stubbornly batted away a neighbour who offered to do it for me, or at least provide me with a step-ladder.
Seren was an angel in her nativity and I went to both shows and enlisted grandparents to attend to, trying to make up for not having her dad to watch her.
I didn’t send Christmas cards. Christmas cards I received wishing us a wonderful Christmas were met with an eyeroll. We did get some thoughtful cards though with lovely messages about Andy. I appreciate it’s often hard to know what to say / do / write in these situations and I guess it just comes easier to some more than others. We got a couple of “remembrance” type gifts too like baubles with a family photo in which was really sweet.
We didn’t have a dedicated Christmas-y thing that we did to remember Andy (we do talk about him all the time) like we did on his birthday. Maybe that will happen in time.
One of my favourite Christmas moments was the last day of term at a kitchen party at a friends where the mums drank Baileys and Prosecco and danced to Fairytale of New York and Last Christmas, whilst the kids watched a film. It’s often the impromptu things that are the most fun isn’t it?
The day itself was harder than I thought it might be. Christmas morning the year before had seemed quite relaxed compared to the craziness of the toddler years. The girls had opened presents, played with toys and I had had a bath. We didn’t have any food to prep as we were going out. I mistakenly thought that this Christmas might be similar but I realised that the reason it had been so calm was that Andy was the one clearing up all the Christmas debris and deciphering instructions for toys etc. This Christmas morning felt so chaotic and like I was drowning in so much wrapping paper that I couldn’t breathe. The toy of choice for both girls has been LOL Dolls which come with several layers of paper themselves and tiny little accessories, secret clues and kinetic sand. So many things to lose and make a mess with! We ended up leaving the house about an hour later than planned and boy did I feel better when we left. We spend the afternoon with Andy’s family and it was OK. The kids led us in playing a ridiculous game of “I Spy” over dinner followed by Sardines afterwards which was pretty funny actually. Then we left for a sleepover with friends which was something completely different and a brilliant plan.
My sister and nephew arrived on Boxing Day and we went into 3 days of visits to our family. We also went to Kew Gardens for the first time which I loved though the children mostly couldn’t see the point of until we got to the fairground rides. Somewhere I would go back to for sure.
And just like that, it was over, we had survived and it was time for us to escape for a few days (more on that another time…).