Blurred gold and red Christmas lights
The Grief Diaries

The First Christmas

Today has been a shitty day. After a few (okay, a lot of) drinks last night, I started crying, and I don’t remember stopping. I just remember waking up this morning, feeling tired, drained, and empty. Most days I consider my biggest achievement getting out of bed. Today was one of those days. It took all my energy to haul myself out of bed and into the shower, when all I wanted to do was wallow in my own sadness. At the start of December, I was looking forward to Christmas. Now, I’m absolutely dreading it. Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful family, and over the years we’ve had some great Christmases. But this year, something’s different. It’s the first Christmas.

Part of me feels like I’m being pathetic – after all, there was no bigger Scrooge than my dad. The older he got, the less of a fan he was of Christmas. Still, it was routine that I’d see him at some point in the run up. Last year, he knocked on our door on a Saturday morning on his way to his flying club. However, we were both in bed with a raging hangover. He did his usual routine of “You lazy buggers, get up!” and there was plenty of amusement in his face when he saw me crawl down the stairs in my Aristocats dressing gown. He dropped off some presents and wished us a merry Christmas. If I knew that would be the last Christmas, I would have grabbed hold of him and never let go.

I never spent a Christmas with Dad. At most, when I was a kid, he’d pop round for an hour on Christmas day, but more often than not, I’d see him at some point in those days running up to it. He’d ask the same question “So, are you all ready for Christmas then, my love?” and I’d say no. He’d ask what we were doing on Christmas day, and I’d say “everything,” because our Christmases are always so hectic visiting family. He’d make a joke about how the shops were crazy busy because OH MY GOD THEY’RE GOING TO BE CLOSED FOR A WHOLE DAY AND WE’RE GOING TO RUN OUT OF BREAD, and we’d both sit and rant about how annoying people are this time of year.

Yes, Dad wasn’t the biggest fan of Christmas and the fuss around it, but seeing him was always part of it. It feels weird that this year, I won’t see him. Not in the run up to the day, not on the day, nothing. I was shopping for Christmas cards the other day, and I picked up a card for my mum, my grandparents, my brother, and then I stopped, because that was it. I didn’t need to have a look at the dad section this year. I hated that.

I’m trying really hard to get in the festive spirit. I desperately want to feel Christmassy. I want to enjoy the day, I want to have a few drinks without the worry that I’ll end up crying and ruining everyone’s evening. But I’m not sure how realistic that is. They say the first Christmas is always the worst – so things can only get better from here, right?

I feel like I need to do something for Dad. We’re still in the process of sorting a headstone, so that’s not an option. I’m not sure what I’ll do yet. For Father’s Day I donated to Bath Cats and Dogs Home, because he loved animals so much. I recently sponsored a light on the Christmas tree at work for him, and I went to the memorial service we held. There’s so much I want to tell him. I want to tell him about my promotion. I want to tell him that I drove on the motorway for the first time a few weeks ago. I want to tell him that I’m now a godmother. I just wish he was still here.

I would like to say a special shout-out to my friend, Beth. She has been an absolute angel. Not only did she ask me to be godmother to her beautiful little girl earlier this year, but last week, I received a special gift in the post from her (and lovely little H) – two decorations for my Christmas tree. One a spitfire (Dad loved his planes), and the other, a personalised heart decoration. The note simply said that she saw them and thought of me. Little things make a huge difference.

A porcelain, heart shaped Christmas decoration with a red ribbon at the top. It reads "When Christmas starts without me, please try not to be sad, just think of all the memories we shared and all the fun we had. Whilst no longer by your side, we'll never be apart. Just close your eyes and feel my love, I'm right there in your heart. Dad." At the bottom it reads 16/11/44 - 31/05/2022.

I come to this final paragraph two days after writing all of the above. I don’t want to jinx things, but I’m hoping that I’m on the other side of the depressive episode I’ve spent the last two days wallowing in. I got through today without napping. I managed to do some housework. I haven’t cried today. I’m taking all of those as wins. As for what will happen Christmas day, I don’t know. I just know that I need to be kind to myself. To anyone suffering with grief this Christmas, whether it’s the first year or the fiftieth, my heart goes out to you.

The First Christmas Pinterest graphic

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