It’s crazy how you never quite know what’s coming at you from one minute to the next. Two weeks ago I got all excited about putting up the Christmas tree. Given my penchant for all things bright and beautiful, and the huge progress I’ve made in my healing over the years, I relished the level of excitement I felt. I had the best time decorating the tree with the prettiest ornaments in my signature non-traditional Christmas colours of course, then I jazzed it up with glittery gold letters, which are the initials of my nearest and dearest loved ones (yes, I included mine too). Finally, I added the most beautiful tree topper which I customised with my precious daughter’s name (my angel is real!), and the tree was complete.
Now, I’ve decorated Christmas trees before, and have always been very happy with the beauty of my handiwork afterwards. Only this time around, the end result was different. Moments after I finished, I was overcome by an immense feeling of sadness. I was suddenly missing the sight of my little girl prancing around the Christmas tree with the boundless level of excitement that only children can generate. I wept, while repeatedly asking myself, “How can I miss an experience I never really had?”. Then it dawned on me that although Robyn’s life was cut so painfully short, her spirit is still very much here with me, and because I carry her in my heart, it feels like we are still growing together. This Christmas, Robyn would be at an age where she could understand the idea of celebrating Christmas. If she turned out to be anything like her Mama (highly likely I think), she would indeed be prancing around the Christmas tree, all googly-eyed by the lights, and curiously touching every ornament within reach. The painful feeling that I’m missing out on that experience with her really floored me. Okay, she may have disliked it too… but this is the trouble when you’re a hopeless sentimental like I am, you never imagine that as a likely outcome. The truth is, I think and speak about Robyn EVERYDAY, so it’s not that being reminded of her is difficult – because I NEVER forget. It’s just that sometimes even the tiniest, seemingly most insignificant activities and events can trigger a tidal wave of painful emotions when I least expect it. I’m very proud of how far I’ve come on my journey of healing, but the past two weeks have definitely reminded me that there will always be these special times when I need to be a lot more gentle with myself than others (times).
The good news is, I didn’t try to fight the feelings. Instead, I owned them, and truly felt them. Then I scooped myself up, gathered my thoughts, and dedicated time to planning some special things to do in Robyn’s memory during the holiday season. Despite the pain of living without her physical presence, I’m still incredibly happy that I now know the indescribable feeling of unconditional love, which grew from carrying her within me all her life.
If you are struggling with loss and grief this holiday season, here are a few useful tips that can help you cope.
Express Yourself: Don’t suppress your emotions and suffer in silence, and never worry that you are ‘spoiling the mood’ with your sadness. Allow yourself time with your emotions, and cry as much as you need to. Sometimes a good cry really helps to ease the pain. If you’re the type who needs to talk about your feelings, reach out to the friends and family you feel most comfortable talking to, find a grief group, or arrange to see a therapist. Having the freedom to express my thoughts and feelings about Robyn really keeps me sane.
Practice Self-Care: Make an extra effort to be gentle and kind to yourself. Treat yourself to something that will help you relax, or something that will give you an energy boost. We’re all different types, so choose your ‘remedy’ accordingly. Remember, every little helps, so go for walks, eat well, read inspirational material, listen to uplifting music, or book yourself a pampering session. Listen to your body because it often tells you what it really needs. During my early stages of grief, I went through several phases of self-neglect, but whenever I found the impetus to do even the smallest thing for myself, I felt significantly better following my activity of choice. Of course, the sadness was still there, but I managed to relax my mind a bit, and that always helped.
Pay Close Attention To The Children: Sadly, loss and grief are not partial to adults, children have these experiences too. Depending on their age/maturity, they may not really understand what they’re going through. This often results in a myriad of behavioural changes, some of which may be quite unpleasant and troubling. As such, it is very important to exercise patience with them, spend quality time engaging in activities they enjoy, and encourage open communication. Extra doses of cuddles can do everyone a world of good, but also remember they may want to have ‘alone time’ too.
Practice Self-Preservation: Protect yourself! Don’t allow yourself to be forced into feeling festive. It’s okay if you’re not in the mood for celebrating the holidays, so don’t be afraid to politely decline invitations to the usual holiday events/gatherings. Sometimes you just need more time out from ‘normal’ life. Heck, cancel the holiday celebrations this year if you need to, it will come around again when you’re feeling less fragile. From my experience, it always helped to be direct, so people knew what to expect from me. Being honest about how I was feeling resulted in a more respectful, compassionate and caring attitude from others.
If you are feeling strong enough to join the festivities, and decide to attend some events, planning your own transportation is a good idea. This gives you more control over how long you’ll be there. That way, if there’s a sudden shift in your mood and you feel the need to leave early, you can do so without having to wait around for others or feeling like a ‘party-pooper’.
Make a New Holiday Tradition: It doesn’t have to be a ‘major production’. It could be as simple as lighting a candle at the dinner table for them, or making a special holiday wreath to lay at their resting place. I create a wreath for Robyn every Christmas, and I find the entire process (from sourcing and gathering the flowers, to making and placing the finished wreath) very cathartic. Perhaps its a good idea to still hang a stocking for someone you’ve lost this Christmas, encourage everyone to fill it with funny stories and fond memories of them so you can all share your stories throughout Christmas Day. Don’t be afraid to also skip a tradition if it’s too painful after your loss.
Give Back in Honour of The One(s) You’ve Lost: Doing something charitable in honour of a loved one can be very satisfying. Spend some time at an orphanage caring for little ones, volunteer at a children’s hospital, feed the homeless. Some of these suggestions are quite relevant to the nature of my loss, but there are really no limits to what you can do as a meaningful way of honouring the memory of your loved ones. Whatever you choose to do, simply do it with love, and you’ll be sure to feel some level of comfort streaming in like a ray of light. Service is a powerful healer. This won’t miraculously take the pain away, but it certainly helps with the healing. Yes we all grieve in different ways, and we’re all at different stages, but I’ve always found that doing even the smallest things in Robyn’s honour often brings me a significant amount of joy.
©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.