My Christmas present

Facebook was a game back then. I’d long ago disabled my real account, bored of the drama and conversely the day to day posts of the contents of someone’s sandwich.

The name was mine but in a different form. I was trying to be a new me. Upon advice, I was using Facebook rather than it use me – talking to strangers from far off places. Trying out socialising skills which were rusty and dusty and under-used. Not that I wasn’t selective – some people I just avoided no doubt like some avoided me.

I will never forget…

Then, one day, there was your request in my inbox. I opened it up to see your face and ‘wow’ left my lips before I smiled. You were single, so no harm. I could…practise my flirting. I could…learn more about a culture I was already intrigued by. I could talk to an attractive man, even for a short time.

I accepted. You messaged. I replied.

In those early days, I was shy and you were persistent. I was hesitant and you were patient.

It was just for fun though.

Until soon it wasn’t. My feelings grew. I was conflicted and torn, suspicious but hopeful. You made me laugh like I no one had ever done. You were consistent and dependable.

And then, less than two months later, it was Christmas. My first Christmas alone.

In the previous year, when Dad had died, I was still numb. I dazzled like a Christmas light, not allowing the grief to surface, determined after six months of loss that I would make Christmas special. I’d filled my house with people and love.

But that year, I was alone. My sisters were with their extended families. My children were with their Dad. And I felt it keenly. I was alone, not with my Dad.

You told me you wouldn’t leave me alone. On a day that means little to you, you made it mean everything to me. You called me, more than before, just to keep me company from thousands of miles away. You made me feel loved and wanted and special. You gave me more than I ever expected.

I love you loyalty and your patience, your integrity and your faith. I love your humour and your teasing, your dependability and your mind. I love your face and your body and your spirit and your soul.

That was the moment I fell in love with you. The time I felt the most alone, the most vulnerable, the most insignificant. That’s when I really knew that I loved you.

I love you.

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Unfortunately, my mood this morning was not much better than yesterday. I was low with no clear indication of why.

I applied my make up in an attempt to cheer myself up. It wasn’t long before Wildcard called me, which put a smile on my face.

Apparently, not big enough though. He knew – as he always does – that something was off. And, as always, he wouldn’t let it go until I told him.

Problem was, I was not sure I knew myself until it just came out. I said how Christmas was a difficult time for me. He asked why. I said because I felt lonely.

Was that true, I asked myself? I had said it without thinking. I don’t look forward to Christmas like I used to, even as an adult I was excited about the experience for my children and as a married woman.

Wildcard asked how I could be lonely: I would be with my sisters and my children. This is true. And my children and sisters are everything to me.

But. But at that moment, I could only think about my Dad. And my mum. And Wildcard. How I couldn’t have what I wanted. I’m not a greedy person. I don’t care about gifts. I just love Christmases with my whole family around me, like I when I was a child. I can’t have my Dad. Or my mum. Or my boyfriend.

Yes, I sound like a spoilt child. And his words made me realise that which is one of the things I really love about him. He challenges me to see things from a different angle. I was feeling sorry for myself and it needed to stop. I needed to find my Christmas spirit again.

‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens is a wonderful novel all about just that. At the end, Ebenezer Scrooge says he will live with the spirit of Christmas the whole year through – the past, present and future.

I had wonderful Christmases as a child and that was because of my parents and my sisters. I need to remember that.

At present, I am lucky enough to be in a position to see my sisters, spend part of Christmas with my children through my amicable relationship with my ex and then have some time with myself/Wildcard.

The future is unknown of course but that doesn’t mean I can’t fight for the future I want.

Anyway, Merry Christmas everyone!

Lose-lose

Earlier in the year, as I cried over yet another cancelled trip to see him (there were four in total), Wild Card told me to write off this year and not even consider coming as iw as just getting upset.

But it was really hard when, just as I went back to work in September, his borders opened. It became even harder when I started to see other couples on Facebook reuniting in his country. And getting engaged or married. Or just looking happy and smug and in love.

And then, then, Ryanair started flying there which means I could actually afford to go. £20 flight anyone?

Of course, there were a couple of sticking points to this plan.

  1. I am a teacher so can’t book time off. (Yes, I know, I get ‘all those holidays’)
  2. You need two weeks quarantine when you get back to the UK. See above.
  3. He told me not to come.

Number three was round about the time when Ryanair got up and running and I joked that I was on my way, even though I knew I couldn’t (see points 1 and 2).

He told me he missed me and wanted me there, but the thought of it really made him nervous. He talked of the quick decisions in his country that could leave me stranded there, the issues with travel and how he didn’t want me to get sick and end up locked away in a hospital, unable to see him.

Yes it hurt, and yes I thought he just didn’t want me to come (which he said he knew I would think) but I could see the logic in what he was saying. I could also see that it showed a lot of love and consideration for me too.

But, yes, it still kind of felt that he didn’t want me to come.

I told him that I understood and that I would only come when he felt it was safe for me to do so.

Of course, if nothing changed, I would only be able to go again in the summer holiday 2021 – 17 months after I was last with him.

The UK went into lockdown and I couldn’t have gone any sooner anyway.

As Christmas approached, I’ve played with the idea of going for the first weekend and asking for a day working at home at the end to complete the isolation. I never asked though.

And then, there was talk that maybe the Christmas holiday would be extended to allow for self isolation. I dared not hope. Good job too, because it isn’t going to happen.

The shiny star on the tree was when I read that our Government have now decided that from December the quarantine is reduced to five days if you pay for a private covid test and it comes back negative.

A few quick sums in my head and…I could actually go. Except..

Except he still hasn’t talked about it since. When I was a little upset in my pre-menstral state last week, he told me it wouldn’t be long. The vaccines are nearly there. Maybe February or April and I would be there.

I couldn’t help myself. This week I told him about the new changes. He asked if I would travel over Christmas and when I said maybe, he said ‘where?’. I said I didn’t know.

The news of the reduction in quarantine got a ‘good’ comment.

Tonight he asked me about my Christmas holidays again and I asked if he was planning to take some holidays himself. He didn’t know, and I asked him to save some for when I would visit.

‘When are you coming?’

I replied that I didn’t know and I was waiting for him to tell me it was OK, remember?

He said it was not up to him. I’m a grown woman and I can make my own decisions. He said it was my home too and I could come whenever I wanted. Apparently I keep talking like he doesn’t want me to come, so now he’s telling me to come when I want but it is up to me to do the research and take responsibility if it goes wrong. But I can come whenever I want, it’s my home too.

I tried to say that we should both decide but he was having none of it. And he said that he wasn’t angry.

I have looked at flights. I could go. But I would miss Christmas at home. Not sure my kids would be impressed even though they don’t see me for half of it.

If I go, and he really doesn’t think it is a good decision despite what he has said, I lose.

If I don’t go, and actually he has told me to come if I want because he wants me to come… but doesn’t want to be responsible for encouraging me if it goes wrong – I lose.

I can’t win. I think he probably still thinks it is a bad idea but he never backs down on anything he doesn’t agree with so the fact that he has makes me think he does what me to.

Would my kids understand? They would spend the whole of the following week and New Year with me. They spend most of the holidays with me usually, so it is not like I don’t see them. Lots of divorced families do it this way, not splitting it more intricately like we have done.

I would really miss them, but I would be back after a week. I haven’t seen Wild Card for 9 months. But I would hate to upset them.

But if I don’t go, and nothing changes, it will be April before I get another chance.

I just don’t know. Lose, lose, lose.

An act of kindness

I survived! My first Christmas alone. Although I wasn’t really.

The morning started off as usual. I awoke early and made a fire. I wrote in my Dad journal and waited for my children to wake and my ex to show up so he could watch them open their presents. During the present opening, I got my first message from Wild Card, wishing me Happy Christmas and asking of I was OK.

After lots of present opening, my sisters and families arrived and we had more present opening and breakfast. There was strained atmosphere at times. My sister and I have still not spoken about her decision and I’m not the only one upset with her. But Wild Card’s advice has helped – it’s her choice.

Then they all started to leave. That was harder. I could feel the tsunami threatening to overwhelm me: the fear and hurt of being alone for the rest of Christmas Day. I made a plan: I decided to keep busy and tidy up, then watch The Holiday and have some food.

First, I did my hair and put some makeup on. It’s what I would usually do and I’m very much of the opinion that if you look good, you feel good. Then I started to clean up, music on so that I was singing and dancing as I went. And then, Wild Card called.

He was true to his word – I would not be alone, he would be with me.

We talked about my morning. Him, asking repeatedly if I was alright. He had never called me on his lunch before and I was a little overwhelmed by his kindness in calling.

At the end of the call as I sensed him going, I’m ashamed to say that my bottom lip started to go. It wasn’t him exactly… Yes, recognition that a man living overseas was kind enough to see my loneliness and was trying to be there for me made me emotional. But it was also fear of being alone for the next few hours. No Christmas Dinner with my family.

I don’t know why I bother to even try to hide it because he saw straight away. The minute he saw my emotion he refused to end the call until I was OK and we had discussed what was wrong. He ended the call again with, ‘You’re not alone, remember that.’

Later in the afternoon I got a text asking if I was OK. By this point I was watching my film and had finished off a bottle of bucks fizz so I was feeling pretty good. (Totally in love with Jude Law in The Holiday – if you like rom-coms you have to watch it)

I’d cooked a piece of turkey for boxing day, made myself some mash and ate a very simplified Christmas dinner alone. It was fine. By this point, it had started to feel like just another day. The wine was probably helping too.

Wild Card called again a few hours later. Seeing that I was in a much happier place, he teased me asking how his ‘crying girl’ was. During the call, my sister and her family arrived to visit and he said hello to them all and wished them a Happy Christmas.

I took the phone into the other room and he told me to spend time with my family now. He again checked if I was OK, told me to enjoy myself and that he would speak to me soon.

Whatever his motivations, and I know some people will think they are mercenary, that man took time out of his day to call and text me repeatedly to make sure I was not alone. He checked on my wellbeing and showed me care. Whatever happens, I will never forget that act of kindness.

Sweetness

I admit it, I’ve spent most of the evening crying. I’m much calmer now.

I haven’t fully processed everything and I have some decisions to make. But I’m going to sleep on it.

Wild Card was instrumental in calming me down. Intentionally too.

He called me early evening. Despite taking the phone to a darkened room in an attempt to hide my tear stained face, he knew straight away that I was upset. Of course he asked why. Not easy to explain to someone with English as their third language.

It meant that I had to simply it, and in doing so he made an interesting observation. If your sister wants to spend Christmas with your other sister, where is the problem? Why don’t you spend Christmas with one of your sisters too? He then made a slightly disparaging comment about Christmas, but only in the sense that we make so much of it when it’s the simplicity that is important.

It is not up to me to decide who my little sister shares Christmas Day with. It still hurts – a lot – but I’ve also realised that I am a victim of my own success. I work hard to be the ‘big sister’, to be there for them when my parents cannot. I protect them from my own feelings. They both genuinely believed that I wanted to be alone. I can’t really blame her for that, can I?

I’m still hurt. I’m still lonely. But my goodness, did Wild Card pull out the stops. By the end of the call I had been laughing for half of it. He ended it by repeatedly asking if I was OK, and was I going to cry again, no? was I sure? … So sweet. ☺️ My instantaneous anxiety at the end of the call – had I been too miserable, my face looked awful etc etc – was resolved by seeing we’d been on the phone for 50 minutes. No one would spend that much time trying to cheer a girl up whom they didn’t like.

His time and attention and simplicity of thought had calmed me down sufficiently to think again. Second helped too but not as explicitly.

He dropped his kids off at 5pm and called me on the way home. As expected, his text communications over the weekend had been understandably sparse but to call as he was driving home was sweet. My voice was thick with emotion, but luckily I could pass this off as my cold reasonably well. He told me he would call again once he got home.

And he did. This time, ironically thanks to Wild Card, I was calmer and he said immediately that I sounded better. I admitted that I had been upset earlier due to a disagreement with my sister. He didn’t ask about it or talk about it. But we talked for an hour whilst he packed his bags for his early morning flight to his homeland tomorrow.

The conversation felt like we had picked up where we left off. He was humorous, occasionally flirty and reminded me that there are only three weeks til we meet. Hearing him talk about his friends and family showed a sweeter side to him. I believe he is genuinely a nice guy.

Something has shifted though. Whilst he surprised me about talking of our promised date, I am not as excited as I was. I think as I sense the emotional unavailability of him, I’ve become less emotionally available for him. There is definitely emotional baggage regarding his ex.

He mentioned again his inability to communicate as much when away. I, again, reassured him and added that I wouldn’t text as much either as I would not want to interfere with his trip. He’s told me that he will call when he can, and has said he will on Tuesday when he is driving again.

Have I moved him into friendship zone unknowingly? I do care about him and want to meet him but the intensity has shifted somewhat. I still wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t meet. I can’t even say how I’d feel if we didn’t.

The lovely Naomi (her blog is amazing!) is right. I’ve fallen for Wild Card. Ridiculously stupid and a sure fire way of getting hurt, I know. But three video chats a day, laughter and sweetness will do that to a girl.

Heartbroken

I’ve never had a Christmas without my Dad until last year.

I coped when I split up from my husband and we planned to share the children because my Dad was there. One year, he was supposed to go to my evil step sisters but stayed at home when he knew that I would be alone.

Since moving back to/buying my childhood home, I have cooked Christmas Dinner. There would always be a combination of people and my sisters and their families would often be there too. Even one year when I told my Dad it was not my turn and that we should await and invitation from one of them, he somehow persuaded me to invite everyone.

Last year, my children were due to spend Christmas Day with my ex. Knowing that this first year without our Dad would be difficult, and wanting to fill this grieving home with people and laughter, I invited everyone here, just as Dad would have liked. This included my ex’s parents and family and my in-laws’ families. Not everyone who was invited came but my house was full: for me, my children and my sisters, it meant our childhood home was full of love and laughter as well as the grief.

This year then, it was definitely my ex’s turn to have the children. It was also the year where my sisters would go to their in-laws.

I’ve told everyone that I’m more than happy to be on my own. I’ve painted a picture of a hot bath and clean pj’s, chocolate, wine and a Christmas food. ‘I’ll relax,’ I say.

Truth is, I don’t want anyone to feel obliged to invite me. I have never wanted to be a burden to my sisters: they have their own families. I have to live my own life.

Sure they’ve commented that I ‘can’t spend Christmas alone’. But that is very different to, ‘I want you to spend Christmas with us’ or ‘we want to spend Christmas with you’. If I can’t have a Christmas with my kids, my Dad, my sisters or a man who loves me then I would rather be on my own.

Tonight, I have found out that my youngest sister in not going to her in laws. She’s actually going to our evil step sisters.

I am heart broken.

This is the step sister who refused for my mother to be mentioned at my Dad’s funeral. It’s the woman who, one week after my Dad’s death, sent me a text message saying that my Dad hated living with me and that he felt like a prisoner. None of which was true, but she is so evil and jealous that Dad lived with me she would do anything to hurt me.

My three sisters and I have barely spoken to her and my step brothers since Dad’s funeral. Last year, my youngest sister tried to build a bridge by visiting her on Christmas Eve but was met with anger and bitterness.

Clearly I’m wrong. Clearly my two sisters have been in contact with her.

All the years that I have cooked and prepared family Christmases for everyone. Just because I wanted us to all be together. My ex used to be mad with me, saying it shouldn’t all be me and that I always ended up exhausted. I don’t care because my family was together.

I feel like my sisters don’t want to spend Christmas with me. That was OK when I thought it was because it was right that they spent it with their husbands’families this year. It’s not alright now. And no, I didn’t get an invite to my other sisters who is having all of her in laws at her house for the first time. And that was OK too.

Now I’m heartbroken. I’ve never felt so alone or unwanted or taken for granted in my life.

If my dad was here, I wouldn’t feel this way.

Heart to Heart

Can I talk to you about Christmas? My memories, my reflections of the first Christmas without my beloved Dad?

………..…

“Well, it’s all over for this year,” as my Dad would say. Although I never really agreed. I suppose, due to my job, I feel like I’ve another week and half of holiday yet. It’s not over until I have to get the uniforms ready and my schoolwork out.

Or, I should say, that’s how I normally feel at this point in the Christmas holiday. Last year, my sister, brother in law and nephew stayed a week in the end and it was wonderful – a week of film-watching, game-playing, laughter and good food.

This year feels… Weird.

My sisters and I feel that it’s very important to create new Christmas traditions. We’re not sure what these will be but we know how important they are for us all. As children, we would all descend on my Grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve: my mum’s five siblings and their spouse and children. My sister and I loved it. We haven’t had that tradition for more than twenty-five years but we still hark back to it.

In my teens my Aunty – mum’s single, childless sister – would join us at home and stay over. We loved her being there and the fun she brought. One year my Dad, mum and Aunty were still awake (and drunk) at six in the morning and ended up going back to bed. I think that was the first year I made a Christmas Dinner.

Early in my marriage, my in-laws would come to us on Christmas Eve as we were so conscious of the imbalance between my parents whom we lived with and my in-laws in regards to sharing their grandchildren’s Christmas experiences. Then Dad would cook the turkey and we would have turkey sandwiches for supper.

In the years of my separation, my children would spend the day of Christmas Eve with their Dad before coming home to me and seeing their Nana and her new partner. I’d then spend the evening with my Dad, drinking wine and chatting until it was time to put out my children’s presents. I wasn’t alone, because Dad was there.

This year, for the first time, he isn’t.

This year, I spent Christmas Eve at my sister’s house whilst my children spent their first Eve at their Dad’s. I woke early, walked the short distance to his house and watched them open their presents. It was different but, surprisingly, OK. I then went home alone and started the dinner.

Before rolling my sleeves up and putting on my apron, I sat in Dad’s candlelit livingroom, put on some special music and allowed myself to let go. To think about him and speak to him. I told him how much I love and miss him and how grateful I was for the 38 wonderful Christmases he had given me.

I cried. I smiled. I grieved. But then, as the last song finished, a calm came over me. I can do this. Dad’s with me, one way or another.

There were fifteen people for Christmas Dinner this year. My sisters and their families, my mum and her partner, my ex and his parents. I wanted my house filled with people that we love and this was especially important for my three children who have lived with their grandad all their lives too.

I can’t say that I enjoyed it. But I can’t say that I hated it either. It was numbingly important work: to prepare and cook a meal for my family so that everyone could enjoy the day. I finished the meal with pride that I’d successfully created a family meal for a group of people for whom half were grieving someone important that was missing. For me, it just was. I’d got through it without mishap or breakdown and I was proud of myself as I knew my Dad would be. Sure, there were no annual conversations about who made the best roast potatoes (me) or gravy (Dad, always) but it was OK. I was busy, and my family were content.

Most people left a few hours later until my children and I, and my sister, brother-in-law and nephew were left. Then I felt more settled – perhaps because if Dad was here, by this point he would have settled in his own chair to watch TV, not join in with games like the rest of us. So, it felt normal, and I began to enjoy myself.

By midnight, my sister, bro-i-law and I had settled into Dad’s more cosy and warm livingroom by the woodfire. We’d played games and had drinks all evening: it was nice to sit and chat by the light of the fire and Christmas Tree.

Pretty soon my sister was asleep on the couch whilst my bro-i-law and I – the more seasoned drinkers ☺ – talked into the early hours.

I’m very lucky that I get on well with both my brother in laws and I enjoyed talking to him. Something I don’t seem to have much opportunity to do any more – adult conversations where you can open up and put the world to rights.

We talked of Dad and grief and I was fine. Grief is funny that way – what can destroy you one moment can boost you another. I enjoy talking about my Dad. It brings him near.

We talked about my loneliness and how difficult it is to find real friends and companions in your late 30s. I spoke of my desire to rebuild my life after years of being unsettled in marriage and with Dad’s illness. (My sister is ten years my junior and is just starting her life it seems). My sisters and I have become even closer since I separated with my husband and Dad’s slow decline. But I do worry – I don’t want to be a burden on them. I can’t expect them to always be my social life. They tell me off when I say this if course, which is why I love them as much as I do.

As we spoke of my somewhat sketchy plan to meet more people there was a pause. My bro-i-law began to speak and then paused.

“Go on,” I said, “just say it.” I trust him and know that whatever he was trying to say would be thoughtful.

“It’s just I was thinking that the perfect person for you would be <Lost Soul>.”

This was not what I was expecting him to say. I listened as he explained why he thought we were right for each other. Music to my ears. We then discussed Lost Soul’s recent behaviour at their house. And I admitted my true feelings.

I explained that if Lost Soul told me, openly, that he still had feelings for me and that he now felt in a place to risk his heart, then I would risk mine. That there was too much between us – he was the one that got away and I would always wonder what might have been.

I didn’t get the sense that my bro-i-law has discussed this with Lost Soul and they are good friends. He acknowledged the hints that Lost Soul had made, just as I acknowledged the mixed signals that I had given over the years. Perhaps that the pair of us were too scared to give in to such strong feelings?

He discussed Lost Soul’s relationships over the past six years – not in detail or to betray his trust – but to say that the relationships often ended as Lost Soul felt something was missing and that his girlfriend ‘didn’t get’ him. Not a problem that we had. I can’t tell you how frustrating that is.

So the upshot? I’m no further on. Someone who knows us both well feels we would be good together. But to is unlikely that we will have the opportunity or the guts to see if that’s the truth. This game has been playing for six years and there still appears to be no winner.

I’ve got through Christmas. I held it together. I started new traditions that honoured the love I still feel for my father as well as for my family. The future is the future and it will come regardless of what I want or don’t want.

Irony

The irony of this blog has not been lost on me. I started it when I separated from my husband in an attempt to see this as a positive chance to start my life again.

The irony of course, comes from what happened afterwards. Seems like Life wanted to change anyway, regardless of my marital status.

In November last year I had a ‘breakdown’, although I much prefer the Teaching Unions’ labelling of ‘burnout’. I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Once the tiredness had finally ebbed, I was left with a numbing darkness: a malevolent emptiness which reeked on my own self-dissatisfaction and sense of failure. In those burned out eyes of mine, I had failed at my marriage, failed to keep my Dad well, failed at my job because I wasn’t strong enough, and failed as a mother because I was weak and a mess.

Months later, sedated by antidepressants and the memories of counselling, I returned to work. The phased return helped and soon I was feeling like the old me again. Not the new me my blog had promised to recount, but the old me.

And then, only a couple of months later, Dad deteriorated further. We thought we were losing him in April but he survived somehow and we were told that he was at the end of his life and we should prepare that he would have about twelve months with us. I believed we would be lucky to have another Christmas with him, but I hoped. He was a strong man despite his illness.

He returned home frail and didn’t seem to recover the way we had hoped. There were more tests, doctor’s appointments, carers… And then the ambulance calls in the middle of the night, only for him to be sent home days later with more medication.

Then in May he was admitted again with severe anaemia. Within days, a chest infection started. Then a little heart attack. And still we had hope. We had til Christmas, didn’t we? We had a year! He’d pulled through before.

After a week we started to doubt. He was not getting better. The hospital were not giving up, but our hope was fading. Our handsome, strong Dad was pale and weak and sleepy. He was black and blue from blood tests and transfusions.

And then, on June 6th, after discussion with the doctors, we made the decision to withdraw treatment – Dad’s non-invasive ventilator – the thing that was keeping him alive. He wasn’t getting better and we couldn’t see him suffer any longer.

Dad died less than twelve hours later with me and my two sisters by his side. And my life as I knew it ended.

I’m not the same person without my Dad. I’ve lost what little strength I had recovered after my ‘burnout’. A colleague has described me as a ‘broken woman’ and its stark accuracy startled me. I feel broken.

The clichés – a ‘part of me is missing’, ‘something has died inside me’ – how I wish they were metaphorical! I always thought they were but then I had never experienced grief like this before.

I write about my grief to cope with it. To remember it. Because it, in a slightly strange way, is also a part of Dad and I don’t want to forget this part either. And I hope these honest reflections can help someone too. Help them realise that they are not going mad, that these tumultuous feelings are a normal part of grief. Grief is not just crippling sadness – something I didn’t know until now. Grief is a very lonely place.

Change was a positive aspiration two years ago. It’s now a source of anxiety and pain.

My counsellor tells me that my grief is ‘healthy’. I’m told that it’s ‘selfless’ which is a good thing apparently. These are just words to me. I’m glad I’m not dipping back into depression again but these words mean nothing. I’m still grieving.

For six months I have tried to do what is expected of me. Carry on with my life. Keep being a mum and a teacher, a sister and a homeowner. As each month has passed, I’ve tried to hide the grief which is still as strong as it has ever been. (Maybe that’s it – you never get over it, you just learn to hide it better? ) Apparently, I’m not doing very well at this.

Last Sunday, after some Christmas shopping, I returned home and cried and cried and cried. I went into work Monday morning, frog-eyed and raw, to speak to HR in the hope they’d let me hide myself away in my office and work. Carry on, the way I’m supposed to.

An hour later, I’d let out my grief again. I’d discussed my pain, my fear about Christmas. My fear that people saw through my very carefully constructed facade of being OK.

My fears were well founded. My colleagues say that I am not the same, that I don’t have the same ‘gumption’ I once had.

How hard I have tried to hide this! I know I don’t have the same strength, but I didn’t want everyone else to see this. It was OK in the beginning, people expect you to be that way. But after a time, I believed that I should be back to myself, externally at least.

Although I feel like a failure, I’ve been told that I’m not and people don’t see me as one. I’m not sure I agree on either count.

Day to day, most days, my grief is a burning ember inside me. It’s a gossamer veil that covers me. Change is a catalyst though. It stokes the embers and the grief burns in my chest. Like today – simply preparing for Christmas with final shopping and cleaning and tidying has caused anxiety all day. Such a strange emotion as I’m not sure why it’s anxiety, but that is what I have felt and what I always feel when I experience change since Dad has died.

I know Christmas will be hard. Its a change. I’ve never had a Christmas before without my Dad: now I will never have one again with him. My anxiety is a symptom of this knowledge.

But somehow, this week’s grief and work revelations have created something new in me. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want people to see me as weak. How can I find myself again? I haven’t created these changes but I need to embrace them somehow. Use them as a catalyst for positivity if that is at all possible. That determination, the strength that has been bred in me, encouraged in me, from my Dad, is wanting to fight back. It was fine for me to pretend to be OK if I thought no one realised. Now I know that I have failed to hide it, I’m even more determined.

I can’t change my grief. I can’t erase it or end it. It’s there because I loved my Dad and will always love my Dad so it will always be there too.

I have no answers to this. It’s another irony. I share my grief in this blog because I believe that grief is personal but should not be private. And yet, I’m determined to find a way to hide it.

I’m shaking my head at myself as I write this.

So, to all of you that are missing someone this Christmas, I know how hard this is. I’m with you. We are not alone. I will be sending a prayer to you all, as I pray to my Dad, asking him to send a little bit more of his strength my way.

Merry Christmas xx

Holiday

I’ve had a lovely evening watching a film with my sister. You know the type: it’s cold and windy outside; the fire is on, the fairy lights are twinkling; you get comfy on the couch with a blanket across your legs and drink tea and eat chocolate.

My sisters have been going on about The Holiday for a few weeks now so it was a perfect time to watch it.

They were both surprised that I hadn’t already seen it: I love romantic comedies.

I’m not sure what put me off – I’ve seen the front cover before. Maybe that I don’t see Jack Black as a romantic hero. Perhaps that Jude Law isn’t my favourite posh English man (Tom Hiddleston please). Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet are great actresses, so no issue for there. It hints at being a Christmas film and isn’t really, but Christmas film are for Christmas. Whatever the reason, I haven’t watched it but was happy to give it a go.

So, a rough plot outline….

Diaz and Winslet play successful women who are unlucky in love. Diaz finds out that her boyfriend is unfaithful; Winslet’s in love with a man who uses her whilst being engaged to someone else. Both situations come to a head just before Christmas.

Diaz decides that a holiday is in order and finds Winslet’s English cottage on a house swap site…

You get the idea.

The film made me smile a few times but wasn’t funny as some. But it was sweet and I particularly liked the subplot where Winslet befriends an old widower who happens to be an award winning screenwriter.

As I said, Jack Black wouldn’t be my first choice for a romantic hero but he actually played the part of an endearing sweetheart really well.

And let’s just say, I get why Jude Law was so popular all those years ago. Wow. He was attractive in that film.

The film is about finding love in the strangest places: about not giving up when you’ve been hurt. It’s about meeting the person you deserve to be with. Sentiments I’m hoping will prove to be true for me also.

It’s worth a watch. Enjoy!

Missing

Today is the 8th of November. Yesterday was the 7th. And I missed it, somehow.

Dad died five months ago yesterday. Where has that time gone? Five months of not being near him. Madness.

But, the thing is, I forgot about it. Not that I forgot him; the knowledge of his death is a recurring stabbing pain of reality, day in and day out. More that, the anniversary of the 7th didn’t dominate my life like it has for the past few months.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. Is it progress? Is it symptomatic of how stressed and overworked I feel? Is it an indication that the part of me that is missing him is far greater than the part of me that worries about anniversaries?

It is absolutely normal to worry about anniversaries. Firsts. I’ve been worrying about Christmas for the past month. I’ve never had a Christmas Day, Christmas Dinner, Boxing Day… without my Dad. Never. I’ve never had a Christmas outside of this house. So naturally, the thought of being here with Dad missing… the empty chair, the incomplete traditions… I couldn’t cope with that. And, being the complete control freak that I am, I put wheels in motion for a new plan. A Christmas that I would not spend at home, trying to put on a brave face for my kids. Sure, I would still see them, but I congratulated myself on the justification of my plan: they could spend the majority of Christmas with their Dad for the first time in his new house. I would visit and support like he usually does. I could then go and be miserable with my sisters.

Slight problem is, my children don’t want that. They say they will miss me, and our home as well as their Grandad whom they have never been without either.

I can’t tell you how I have fought with that one. Is my grief worse? Does that then justify my selfishness? It’s only for this year, the first. They won’t be missing much.

But they would. And so would I. Dad made Christmas. He loved it: loved the traditions, loved being a family. He loved this house, his home for over 50 years. And one Christmas away is not going to retract from that. It’s not going to make it better, or easier.

I can’t run away from my grief because I carry it round with me, each and every day.

So I’m having Christmas at home, with my children and my family. I’ve invited my ex. I’ve told my sisters to invite their in-laws – the more the merrier. I’m going to celebrate Christmas just as my Dad taught me to. I’m going to miss him for every second of it, but as I miss him every second now it’s not going to make any difference.

So, I missed the 7th. So what? I miss my Dad every day, regardless of the date.

As Dad would say, “It’s life.” And so I must go on.