Losing a loved one at Christmas time By Nicola Wall


Losing a loved one at Christmas time 

by See Change Ambassador, Nicola Wall

My mother died on the 21st of December 2015. She had cancer for many years and had suffered a great deal. Her funeral was the day before Christmas Eve. When a loved one passes away, you always remember how things were around you when it happened; the songs that were on the radio, the events that were on the news at the time and so on. If my Mam had died any other month of the year, it might not feel so much like deja vu coming up to her anniversary. As soon as December rolls around the decorations go up, lights are turned on, the Christmas songs that played on the radio while I held her hand and said goodbye are all around me. Every advert, movie and decorated shop window takes me back to that time. The world suddenly looks exactly as it did when she died. It all serves as a reminder of the trauma we endured that Christmas and we are forced to experience it all over again every year.   

A couple of years after losing her, I had a baby boy at Christmas time and two years later, a daughter. This time of year has a different meaning now; creating magical memories for my children, the same magic my mother made for me, helps me to feel close to her. It is true what they say, it doesn’t get easier but you do get used to it. I feel her loss every day, sometimes it is an all-consuming, earth-shattering kind of pain where I question how I can survive another day without her. But I have lived with this grief long enough to know these moments do pass. Grief is messy and complicated, no matter how much time passes and how well you heal, you never get over it. A part of me died with her and I have never been the same person I was when she was here. I am looking forward to Christmas this year, it will always be a day tinged with sadness but I plan to make the most of it after a difficult year.     

It is important to remember that Christmas can be a sad time for many. Not everyone has family or friends to celebrate with. Grief can be particularly hard as the loss is magnified. The only advice I have is to not avoid it, instead lean into it. Whether that be by carrying on a tradition they loved or starting a new one in their honour, watch their favourite festive movie or play their favourite song, light a candle in their memory or visit somewhere you feel closest to them. Remember that the person you lost may be gone, but their love for you remains. They wouldn’t want you to be miserable, they want you to be happy. That being said, if it is all too much, there is nothing wrong with doing what you need to do to protect yourself. It is ok if you cannot face the celebrations. You are dealing with one of the most painful human experiences. All any of us can do is our best. The most vital thing, whatever you decide to do, is that you show yourself kindness.   


If you are having a tough time at the moment and need to reach out for support, please contact any of the following

Shine: phil@shine.ie


Samaritans: 116123


Pieta House: 1800 247 247


YourMentalHealth.ie: 1800 742 444

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