I could sit here and write about what a dismal Christmas I’ll be having this year. Once again, Romy is not here. Once again, we have chosen a beautiful tree ornament in her memory and as the rest of the family settle down for an afternoon of films in front of the fire I will once again make the journey to the burial ground to leave roses for my youngest girl and reflect on what sort of Christmas we might be having if she were here with us.
As a child, I loved Christmas. I was fortunate enough to have parents who made it a wonderful holiday and as soon as my own children came along I couldn’t wait to revisit some of our family traditions and to make new ones for our little unit. As so many of us do once we become parents, I rediscovered Christmas and all its magic again through the eyes of my own children.
After Romy died I didn’t think I would ever see the point of Christmas again. All the things it stands for: family, togetherness, love, peace – had all been shattered for me. I could hardly bear to contemplate the rest of my life, let alone work out how to celebrate a festival and make merry.
Recently I have been reflecting a lot on the work of the wonderful human being who was Dr. Victor Frankl. Frankl was an Austrian psychotherapist and the sole member of his family to survive Auschwitz and his seminal work, Man’s Search For Meaning has helped me to move forward in so many ways. Frankl’s main message is that, as long as we can find and hold on to meaning in life then human beings can survive any given set of circumstances. Even the loss of a child. Even Auschwitz. So often people have remarked to me that they don’t know how I have survived the loss of my child as it is ‘…every parent’s worst nightmare.’ Yes it is, but I also think of Frankl’s compariots who lost, not just their child or children but all their family members and witnessed such atrocities to scar them for the rest of their lives. I think of today’s citizens of Aleppo.
Over the past months I have come to find some meaning in my life outside of my bereavement and even outside my roles as mother and bereaved mother. I’ve come to realise that returning to tangible things that make sense to me – such as my spirituality, dancing and writing – have enabled me to move forward in great strides.
You might at this point be wondering where the results of all the writing are as these blog posts are becoming a little sporadic. Well, I’ll tell you. Back in November I attended the blogging event run by Mumsnet. Aptly entitled Blogfest, it was gathering of all the inspiring, energised and strong women out there who blog about all aspects of motherhood you can possibly imagine, and then some. I went with one of my best friends who writes brilliantly about her life with her family which includes her beautiful son, living with an undiagnosed syndrome.
This event lead me down a path I am now committed to following because it told me that, for now at least, this blog is no longer my main focus. It has helped me so much to share my thoughts over the past two years as for some reason, writing them down has been easier and somehow more healing for me than talking about it. However, just as I experienced a natural peeling away from all the therapy I took on in the early days, I now feel myself being drawn towards new horizons.
I know now that I need to apportion a little bit more of my scant time to writing the book I have promised myself my whole life I would write. And I am actually doing it.
I will still post here because it helps me to unravel the thoughts that so often get in the way of my daily life. I also hope that it might in some small way help others living without their child or children, or the family and friends of those of us who do. I also hope that my words might offer a little bit of solidarity to anyone living with the shadowy syndrome that is PTSD. I don’t know whether it’s just my heightened awareness but I do feel that this is slowly being more talked about ‘out there’, in contexts other than ex military who live with the condition.
I realised very early on in my grief that choice was the key. There is always choice. I can choose to lose meaning in my life because my child died. I can choose to lament this fact for the rest of my days and I can choose to allow it to let my life fall away from me. Two days after Romy went home I made a very conscious choice to get myself out of bed, to function without drugs of any kind and to move forward, as best I could, with making a life for myself and my family.
Looking back, it’s been hard but I am pleased with what I have achieved. Admittedly I couldn’t have done it without my husband, my parents, sister, sister in law, mother in law, my aunt and numerous friends, all offering incredible support in different ways. Our policy of honesty and openness with our children has served us very well and we now have the added strength of being able to talk about anything as a family. We know we can get through anything too. Since we lost Romy we’ve been hit with other difficulties that have really challenged us, but we’ve stuck together and weathered everything. We are stronger. I am stronger.
I find that I now read less about other people’s loss than I did and I hope that others connected with this blog also find that at some point they begin to drift away from the online world of child loss and find their way back to their own, real, three dimensional lives. This is always here if any of us need it.
For now, I am focussed on making this Christmas one to truly remember for three little children; two of whom are beside themselves with excitement and one of whom is enjoying learning what it’s all about from his brother and sister, who adore him. I am grateful for my family, both physically present and in spirit, and I am grateful for my life, and for the reminder that it still has purpose.
In Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge the Christmases he could have been enjoying had he made different choices in life. Choice again. I choose to forge ahead and honour my daughter’s brief time here by doing things that I hope would make her proud to have chosen me as her mama.
Whatever festivities you observe (our family is preparing to mark the winter Solstice this evening) I wish you and your families peace, love and happiness.