“I’m quitting walking and taking up smoking.” My mum says to me.
“Not the best New Year’s resolution I’ve ever heard.” I sigh.
The thing is, mum’s grieving. So am I. On Christmas Eve, we lost our wonderful dog, Jack, who suddenly died of heart failure at just 11. We’d had him since he was a puppy (best birthday present ever) and he was mum’s best friend.
Losing Jack was devastating. But when you lose a close friend or family member at Christmas, during a time when we’re bombarded with adverts for a perfect festive season, the grief is especially raw.
I have two close friends who lost their mums to cancer growing up, and not only that, both were around Christmas time. Each year we plot to run away, to hole up in a remote cottage, eat our body weight in cheese and chocolate and drink until the new year has dawned.
Because sometimes, it feels like the only way to survive a time that celebrates perfect families is to escape it. Every year we are bombarded with adverts that show happy families sitting down over a huge feast. Where are the families who’ve separated? Lost a loved one? Where family feuds have become too unbearable or money is too tight for the expensive gifts, the food or the rent?
I’m not a Scrouge; anything that celebrates love and friendship in this world should be applauded. I just wish we weren’t continuously sold what a ‘perfect’ Christmas should be. I wish there was a larger representation of what ‘family’ means to everyone, and less condemnation of those who find it hard.
Despite several crap things happening this Christmas, as always, it’s the friends who get you through. I’ve laughed my head off with the girls, got drunk on the sofa and bawled my eyes out, and danced to an audience of walkers in Windsor Park. It’s good to be reminded that grief and happiness can be felt together.
So if you find Christmas a bit tough, you’re not alone. As my wise friends tell me; be kind to yourself, accept how you feel and remember – you’re just a little bit awesome.
Here’s to the new year peeps – let’s make it a good one!