Time and milestones can become profound and often surreal experiences when you lose a child. Once upon a time, my life was mapped around the school terms and holidays. All this changed one night in September 2017.
Time seemed to work differently after that night. One minute we were heading into the last term of school, and the holidays were fast approaching, the next, time stood still and didn’t follow the same logic everyone else’s clocks and calendars did.
I speak to many bereaved parents and there is a common theme, time ‘before child’ and time ‘after child’.
After a while my once ‘school year’ became sectioned out, Ben’s birthday in July, his anniversary in September, and then navigating the end of the year and dreaded 25th December.
The end of the year is a time for reflection and often planning for the year ahead. Previously I had taken comfort knowing that whatever the last twelve months had been like, January would bring with it a fresh start with new experiences. Now it also came with the realisation that another year had gone by.
It was and still is, a sharp reminder of how much longer I have been living without Ben.
To another bereaved parent, this may sound familiar. But take a moment to remember that just as we track the weeks, months, and pivotal moments throughout the calendar year, our young people do as well.
Moving towards the end of the year can be incredibly challenging for a young person who has lost someone they love.
It has been four years now that Ben’s friends have had to navigate their lives without him. His circle has all since graduated and many have moved on to the next phase of their lives. Others, not so much … and some are still trying to figure it all out.
I am told with each milestone, comes thoughts of their buddy who they were supposed to be sharing the next stage of life with. Driver’s licences, formals, exams, and graduations come and go, and yet there seems to be a perpetually vacant chair, and emotional gap, where their friend’s absence is forever noticed.
The end of the year traditionally marks a special time for families to gather and spend time with each other. It is the time to set a place for those who have passed and remember them with love.
This time of year can be impossible for a bereaved parent. It is an event that is consistently in your face – think social media, Xmas junk mail, packed shopping centres, festive decorations etc.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Your success rate for getting through tough times so far is 100% and I am here to tell you, you can get through this too!
As we approach the end of the year and think about enduring connections present and passed and those we are yet to meet in the future, remember to be kind to yourself.
YOU DO YOU! and just be however you need to be.
As you move through the next few weeks, take a moment to check in with siblings and friends of your child. Like us, they feel a huge appreciation from receiving a quick message or a note of love.
To finish off today’s post I want to leave you with the following:
15 Tips to get you through the rest of the year
i. Just be how you need to be. Just because everyone else is doing the celebratory thing doesn’t mean you have to. It can be just another day if that’s what you need it to be.
ii. Don’t feel pressured to be here, there and everywhere. You may make a bunch of plans and wake up on the day wanting the ground to swallow you up and crying uncontrollably (or not) …. and that’s okay! You are allowed to cancel everything last minute – the world will keep spinning.
iii. It’s okay to set a place or put out a glass (with or without a beverage in it) for your child, even if other’s think you’re a bit weird.
iv. Try not to have any expectations as to how you will feel from moment to moment. Your emotions could easily change from moment to moment.
v. If you are Xmas shopping, try and pick low traffic times. These are easier to navigate and there are fewer ‘happy families‘ around.
vi. If you are doing grocery shopping, try and pick lower traffic times as well. An hour before closing or the first hour of opening is better than peak shopping times. Bring a list so you can stay focused.
vii. It’s okay to be busy and happy one minute handling everything well, then go into your room and bawl. It can be a really overwhelming time of year.
viii. It’s also okay if you don’t cry over this time. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten. Ignore people who say, ‘You’re handling this really well…’, and just offer a smile if you can.
ix. Be prepared for people to say stupid things. They are usually coming from a kind place. People just have no idea what to say and feel the need to say something. They don’t know what you’re going through.
x. Be prepared for your patience to be thinner than usual and your emotions to be heightened, regardless of how long it’s been. This time of year can be really challenging mentally and emotionally.
xi. Keep someone in mind that you can have as your sounding board or go-to person if things get teary. Someone that will just support you with no advice and hold you with no judgment. As many times as you need them to.
xii. If everything goes pear-shaped, remember December 25th will only last 24 hours. Boxing Day can bring big relief that it’s over for another year.
xiii. Your child may not be here physically, but they are not gone. You can still talk to them or write cards or letters to them. Your relationship is not over, it’s just different. Take time to be quiet with them as well.
xiv. Talk to your remaining children and if you are in touch, drop your child’s best friends a message/note.
xv. Involve your kids in your activities and share your feelings with them. Remind them they don’t need to ‘look after you’, but it will be a sad time for you all. Say your child’s name (often) in conversation with them.
And when all is said and done, remember our relationships don’t end when our children die, they just continue in a very different form.
Be kind to yourself. You CAN get through this.
And if the time comes and you need permission, here it is. If you choose it to be, December 25th can be just another Saturday.
Dalya xx 💙