A Pig of a Season


Almost ten months since JS died, and I’m still constantly wrong-footed by this grief business.

Take Christmas.

Actually, please, someone, anyone, take Christmas, I beg you.

I wasn’t always like this about the festive season: grouchy, tearful, wanting to strangle every adult in the Morrison’s Christmas advert with a string of tinsel, especially the flirty butcher in the boater who says suggestively to Freddie Flintoff, “And the British beef.” 

Pre you-know-what-you-know-when, I loved Christmas, becoming ridiculously excited when Selfridges opened their Christmas grotto in August. Being somewhat of anal control freak (oh the irony now), by October I had my presents bought and wrapped, menus planned and a list of ingredients to procure.

In mid-December, our house would be decorated. Lots of holly, flowers and foliage; two trees: one enormous real one that had to be sawn up in the front room on Twelfth Night, as once unfurled from its mesh condom, we could never manoeuvre it out of the front door, and a small artificial one in the kitchen. We put a garland with lights winding up the stairs; lights in the garden; lights on the garage; lights strung around the mirrors; lights on the pot plants. Not quite Home Alone, but enough to push EDF Energy’s profits up.

Sadly, last Christmas was the worst Christmas and New Year JS and I spent together, because in December I got every bug imaginable, peaking with the winter vomiting bug making a spectacular appearance on Christmas Day. Then, because what was mine was his and vice versa, I generously passed it on to JS. When we took the decorations down in early January I started sobbing, “What if this is our last Christmas together, ever?” I told JS of my feeling of impending doom. He put my fears down to post-viral slump and told me not to be so silly…

If I was a betting woman instead of someone who once a year gets anxious that I’m wasting a fiver on a £2.50 each way bet on the Grand National, I would have put good money on my going into hysterical orbit at writing Christmas cards without JS’s name on them, and guaranteed I would need sedation if I so much as thought of putting up a tree without him. Which is why I had no intention of doing either of those things.

Christmas Chez PG was cancelled.

But life drags you along in its wake, and I ended up writing cards and putting up a tree. And did either of those things reduce me to floods of tears and a lake of snot?

No, they did not.

What did was the following:

1. Smug round-robin Christmas letters.
2. The stack of cards written and ready to post.
3. Shrink-wrapped cured pig.

Let’s start with the Christmas letters and go downhill from there.

I thought that this year I might be spared these self-satisfied smug missives trumpeting fantastic lives and amazing holidays with perfect gifted children, who not only got fifteen A*s in their GCSEs, but who, if only they didn’t have to train for the Olympics/sing in a professional choir/compete in Junior Masterchef would have developed a cure for the common cold in their bedroom.

OMG we’ve had some corkers in the past. One year, when it was well known that we (along with many of our friends) were having serious financial business issues relating to the recession, a letter dived straight in with: 2008 saw us start the year as we went on – in a fabulous hotel in the Seychelles!

Another highlight which had JS and me sniggering every time we remembered it, was the letter which discussed in detail a newly purchased washing machine and separate tumble dryer: Because with a new kitchen and a large family doing sport at the highest level (see how they smoothly incorporated two subjects), it is important that we have household equipment that is both reliable and stylish.

With the advent of digital cameras and sophisticated computer programmes, these letters have become increasingly elaborate. Now they feature coloured fonts, each photo in a frame, ivy around the border and sometimes even angels in the corner, presumably trumpeting the arrival of the letter rather than the baby Jesus. In the next few years I’m fully expecting a DVD to be included in the card, a mini-movie of the year in review starring Mr & Mrs Smug and the gifted Smuglettes, possibly directed by Martin Scorsese.

When I was a child in the sixties and seventies, my father and mother sat at the table and laboriously wrote the Christmas cards and letters, an event which took days to complete. I know it took days because so as not to disturb the piles of cards in their varying states of signing (thereby incurring the wrath of our mother), we had to eat our meals around them. But nowadays communication is so easy, you would think that Mr Smug or Mrs Smug might be able to add a personal paragraph to a letter to someone who, for arguments sake, lost her husband to drowning whilst on holiday earlier in the year, perhaps cutting out some of the more Aren’t we a fabulous family! sections. Even if the fabulously exciting couple can’t locate the Select and Delete sequence on their state-of-the art computer, or are too busy being absolutely fabulous to get around to doing it, surely one of their amazingly gifted children could stop swotting up for Cambridge at the age of thirteen and help them out by pressing a couple of buttons? But no, those letters have been slipped in the 2011 cards, many of which wish me a Magical Christmas or even, Have A Wonderful Year! 

Now, let me put my non-festive cards on the table and say that I am not the sort of widow who on seeing elderly couples holding hands wants to stick a magnet near their pacemakers because they have each other, and I have The Hound and my V+ Box for company. Wistful yes, angry no. I do want people to be happy and I am genuinely interested in the lives of my friends and family; I relish their successes. Some letters are a joy to receive. My friend Gill P always sends the most wonderfully witty Christmas letters, but like me, she was on the receiving end of a spectacularly smug letter from L, a mutual smug-since-schooldays friend, crowing about her academically and sportingly gifted children. In the same self-satisfied missive, L announced that she had finally broken into the Cheshire coffee morning set and was loving it.

Gill had only recently had given birth to her handicapped daughter whilst she and her RAF serving husband were stationed in Germany.

If Gill could have pulled strings and sent a fighter bomber to drop something nasty on that Cheshire house, believe me, she would have done it.

This year, when the first letter came through oozing with self-congratulatory smugness, I felt sad that I couldn’t mock it with JS. Standing alone in my kitchen, there was no one to share my evil fantasy that one day Perfect Child A would run off to the circus with a lad working on the wall of death and forget all about ‘A’ Levels and a Nobel Prize, whilst Perfect Child B was on remand for growing skunk in the school greenhouse. Reading about these oh so fabulous families felt isolating. And then, like Gill P when she opened that letter from L, I was mad that these people hadn’t had an ounce of thought or humility to realise how they must sound to someone in my situation.

So I did what I always do when I am mad.

Firstly I cry.

Then I fill a wine glass.

Finally, I start bashing away on the computer, in this case, composing my own 2011 Christmas Letter.

It started pretty well. I wanted to keep it light and upbeat with a touch of self-depreciating humour:

2011 has been a year of change for me, and I don’t just mean the menopause…

But fuelled by Merlot and misery, it soon degenerated into sarcasm and bitterness.

Whilst I have had a difficult year, I want to acknowledge that many of you had problems in 2011 too. I remember the email I received from an old friend after JS’s funeral, apologising for not being in touch because as she said, her life was currently a nightmare. There was me grieving, and until I got that message I hadn’t grasped just how life-changing it must be to have to deal with a leaking washing machine in one of the properties she and her husband rent out.

Or:

I was touched to receive hundreds of cards after JS died and really appreciated all the kind offers of help and support. Since the funeral (JS would be proud of the enormous bar bill we ran up!) I’ve only heard from a handful of you, but the thought was there, even if you weren’t.

See what I mean?

So I opted not to send a letter, but I did decide to send cards.

Originally I was only going to send cards to those people that have been there for me this year.

So I bought ten.

Then I started going through our address books, and in a spirit of two-fingered (victory or otherwise) defiance, I decided to send cards to pretty much everybody, which meant I had to rush out and buy more. I ended up with seventy-nine UK cards, six overseas and eight neighbours. I know these figures, because I had to go back out and buy stamps. Anyway, I signed away, sometimes from me, sometimes from me and The Hound, often putting a few comments in too. I wanted people to know that with or without them and JS, life goes on. And it was OK, it really was. I found I didn’t mind signing the cards. I finished them, stamped them, and flicked through them.

And that is when I realised something.

Not one of my circle of (pre-accident) friends had lost a spouse suddenly. Not one. Now of course, I know that the world is full of those who have lost a loved one in tragic circumstances, but sitting on the stairs flicking through those white rectangles, I felt horribly isolated and picked on by life. The early emotions of Why me? surfaced for the first time in months. Even during the recent low period I never thought Why me? because I know it’s not just me, it’s probably you too, and there are many other widows and widowers out there in considerably more difficult circumstances than moi. But with my previous social circle stamped and in my hands, I felt victimised. How could this have happened to me? To him? To us?  That old stuck record started playing, and I started crying. And then I gave myself a mental slapping, dragged the dog from his bed and went out and posted them.

The next day I went food shopping.

I was back in defiant two-fingered mood, though this time the fingers weren’t aimed at anyone in my address book, they were aimed at The Grim Reaper.

I powered my trolley up the first aisle. At the top, I spotted packets of smoked salmon and blinis. JS and I had a tradition on Christmas Eve night: smoked salmon on blinis with mock caviar, sour cream and champagne. It was ‘our’ time, the calm before the storm of Christmas Day. There was a lump in my throat when I saw them, but still defiant, I decided, Sod it! I’m going to buy them for myself. I tossed them into the trolley with a flourish.

This is going to be OK! I thought. I can do this!

I swung round the next corner to come trolley-to-shelf with a massive display of hams of different sizes: breaded; smoked; honey cure; glazed; studded; browny pink; luminous pink; pale pink. A piece of cured pig for everyone.

Except me.

We always got a big ham at Christmas; we had it in sandwiches, with salad, baked potatoes, chips; fried up with left-over veg, or with eggs for breakfast. Those ruddy hams represented relaxed Christmas meals when we had come in from visiting friends, walking The Hound or hitting the sales.

The floodgates opened.

I am very lucky in my life in so many ways, but standing by those hunks of shrink-wrapped pink meat, I didn’t feel defiant, I felt desolate.

On a shelf by the Hams of Despair were some Heston Blumenthal pies for one. I bought two. Instead of powering along the aisles with my trolley, I trudged around, using it like a walking frame with wheels. I felt low and slow and defeated. When I got to the checkout and put my things on the conveyor belt, I noticed the woman behind me. She was elderly and hump-backed. In her basket were a couple of meals for one and a small tin of macaroni cheese. When she put them behind my shopping, I noticed her hands were mottled, their skin papery thin, a narrow gold band on her wedding finger. I had more items (and much more booze) than she did, but both of us were clearly shopping for one. Now, in my usual Pollyanna-ish state of mind I could re-frame this situation by thinking, At least she is shopping in Waitrose! Things can’t be all bad! But with Ham Head, I just cried. I cried for her, for me, for everyone who had been affected by JS’s death, for everyone facing Christmas without someone we love and miss. I also cried for my lost youth. I cried so much I forgot to put my green token in the charity collection; I found it in my coat pocket when I was sitting in my car in the car park sobbing, and I fished out a tissue. When I got home and unpacked the shopping, I realised I had bought two packets of blinis, even though this year, there’s just me. Old habits are hard to break.

I talked to my amazing bereavement coach, Shelley, about what had happened with the hams and the cards, about how these events had not only ripped the fragile scab off my grief, but made me feel different to those around me. She reminded me of what I already know, but what I need to hear from time to time: that whatever good things are going on in my life, mourning is part of healing and is healthy. Sobbing over cured pork is part of my healing process, although quite frankly, I’d prefer to sob over something more glamorous, like champagne and diamonds.

Shelley and I talked about making new traditions whilst honouring old ones, or keeping up old traditions but with a new twist.

I drove home, and on the spur of the moment and against everything I said, got back in the car, went to the garden centre and bought a small Christmas tree in a pot. I liked the fact that it was living. I bought some new baubles, and then at home, opened the trunk where two decades of Christmas decorations are kept, decorations that I had put away whilst sobbing, gripped with fear that JS and I wouldn’t have another Christmas together.

I was right.

We didn’t.

It was strange to see everything there, but not bad strange, comforting strange. JS and I had so many fun-filled Christmases together, but not putting up a tree, sitting in a bare room, refusing to send cards, mired in denial and becoming bitter over others and their lives isn’t going to bring him back. Nothing is ever going to bring my husband back, not even a letter to Santa telling him I’ve been a good girl this year. As lovely Denise, a Geordie Angel I met whilst walking The Hound on Hampstead Heath on a particularly low day wrote on my Facebook page: If you’re going to be sad, be sad in fairy lit magic. She’s a canny lass that woman; a pragmatic Geordie.

On Thursday night, waiting for my friend, Big Bird, to arrive for the evening, I sat sipping red wine looking at my new tree whilst The Hound lay in front of the fire. Yes, I felt sad and wistful for the days when I sat there next to a towering brightly lit monster, the rest of the house buzzing with life and light and love, but I didn’t feel searingly desolate in the way that I thought I would.

The next day, I went back to the garden centre and amongst all the Peace, Love, and Merry Christmas signs, I chose a new decoration. I hung it near the top of the tree, under the po-faced angel we’ve had for years, the one that we always made jokes about as we stuck the top of the tree under her skirt.

Holocaust survivor, Viktor E Frankl, wrote in his amazing book, Man’s Search for MeaningEverything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

The decoration I chose says: Hope.

The future terrifies me, the past still haunts me, the thought of the year ending and a new one starting and the count down to the first year anniversary and the inquest fills me with anxiety. I am dreading Christmas Day; unless I get lucky (!) at the Carol Service on Christmas Eve, it will be the first time in forty-seven years that I will wake up on the 25th December alone in an empty house. To drag me through, I’ll be thinking of my fellow Planet Grief inhabitants. I’ve had generous invitations from friends to stay with them, but this year, I need to do it alone. There will be a visit to the Crematorium in the morning and then a relaxed lunch with my brother, his partner and a friend, before I head home for the soaps and Absolutely Fabulous.

I can’t wish you a Merry Christmas, because there is still too much sadness in our lives, but I can wish us all ‘Hope’.

xxx

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53 Comments

Sue Walton
Reply December 18, 2011

Oh, how you have hit the nail on the head! Those round robin letters from The Smugs are so dreadful - Alan used to send one out, but it was so full of irony that it was hilarious, especially when people believed in it. We even had someone offer us a loan one year because he had gone on so much about our 'dire financial situation' ; naughty boy!
As far as decorations etc go, it had always been our tradition to visit the local garden centre to choose that year's new treat. My daughter and I have maintained that tradition, and this week went on our annual pilgrimage. Now, earlier this year I lost my dear old chocolate labrador to liver and kidney failure. She was 14, and had always been very much Alan's dog. (I'm not digressing, honestly, there is a point to this.) So, Alice and I were looking through the wares which were on offer when the straw appeared which broke this particular camel's back. A little wooden tree decoration in the shape of a chocolate labrador, complete with a tiny bell on its collar. What connection, exactly, a chocolate lab has to traditional festive ornamentation I have no idea, but you can imagine which of the trimmings on offer came home with us and is now sitting in its wrapper waiting for a tree to appear on which it will be hung.
I seem to be able to deal with the bigger, in-your-face reminders, but was floored by a wooden replica of his old dog.
Sending you love and strength this Christmas time.
Sue xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Oh Sue, the thought of losing Alan's lab is so poignant (never apologising for digressing about dogs - digress away, the more the better).

    I will think of you, your family, your tree and a chocolate labrador loved, missed and with Alan now.

    xx

Angela
Reply December 18, 2011

Bloody marv Helen!! Have so missed your blog. I applaud and admire your steel and determination to partake of Christmas festivities.

As you feel about the Morrison's advert, for me this year, it's Iceland who have committed the heinus crime of using a song I loved, that reminded me of Malc, and would give me a lovelly warm glo whenever I heard it to grace their adverts (Driving Home For Christmas - Chris Rea), and I hate them for it!

As an aside, I managed to scupper my own Christmas round robin years ago. We only ever used to get one, but your description of the ones you get were identical to the one we used to receive. We put up with it for a few years and then I let it be known to a mutual acquaintace (who I KNEW would pass this nugget on) that my sister (who also used to get one) and I would eagerly await this round robin each year, because it would give us a damn good laugh and weeks of material to take the pee out of. Neither of us ever received another one!!

As for Christmas and New Year (this is the time that Malc got ill 2 years ago and was admitted to hospital New Year's Day), I have just started a new job. I am manning the phones on call from home on Christmas Eve, then will make the most of Christmas Day and Boxing Day with the boys, after which, as I am the only sad-sack in my new job with no social life or any wish whatsoever to ring in the New Year..I am once again, working 24hour on calls from 27 right through to 2 Jan, and that's okay. x

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Angela - I have to admit that whilst JS was alive I would have hated NOT to have received this letters, much as we mocked them, precisely because we had such fun mocking them.

    I am trying not to think about New Year. I'd like to go to bed and just wake up, but it's Firework Central round here. I'm tempted to let a rocket off in the garden, but suspect somehow it would backfire, probably literally and I'd end up in The Whittington Hospital which was where they took JS's body back in the UK, not that I knew that until much later.

    If you need someone to put a uniform on and pretend to be a nurse at New Year, I'm your woman. xxx

Kate Connochie
Reply December 18, 2011

Thought I would check out your blog with a wee cup of coffee and now in tears - you always just hit the spot - L and I were always in hysterics with the round robin letters - luckily so far I have not had to suffer one - facebook is bad enough!

This is my second Christmas without my darling - and I can't honestly say that it will be easier - just different - my friends have all rallied around again I will have busy few days - but not in my home - that's the hard bit!

You have done completely the right thing - post the cards, enjoy your tree and remember the good times, be kind to yourself.

I have a major hurdle to get through before 25th December though - my Silver Wedding Anniversary on Tuesday - but again - thank to friends it should be just about bearable.

Peace at Christmas and Lots of love to you and the hound from me and my mad Airedale xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Kate: I hope the twenty-five year anniversary was as you hoped (bearable).

    Love from you is great but from a mad Airedale great! xx

Colin
Reply December 18, 2011

Helen I was dreading this time of year back in May, at the family and friends gathering after Alison's funeral, I remember thinking 'how the hell am I going to get through Xmas. I was thinking that far ahead then! Only because like you and JS it was a special time for the both of us. As you know, putting the tree up yesterday, totally wrecked me, so much so that I have small hangover while typing this, I hit the wine a little too much last night.
JS is with you, trust me, as Alison is with me, they can see all we have done, remember what your hairdresser told you!
I have more evidence, which I will write about in my blog, just need to get some of it more clarified.
Much love
Colin
XX

    Angela
    Reply December 19, 2011

    Eagerly awaiting that blog entry Colin.

      Planet Grief
      Reply December 22, 2011

      Me too! xx

Tracey
Reply December 18, 2011

Dear PG, last Christmas day was the three month anniversary, with a four year old who had already lost a lot... I ploughed on regardless. I put the tree up, I wrote the cards (not sure I remembered to post them or not!), I cooked Christmas dinner for all the family... well not ALL the family, negotiated the empty seat at the dinner table dilemma, had my first glass of champagne at 10 then didn't trust myself to hold it together until everyone had gone so stopped then. When everyone finally left, I wailed, but I did survive it all. One of my very dear friends who has been amazing since "the day", bought me a present even though we don't usually as she wanted me to "have something nice to open", so in the bag, there were a few small girly things... and a small pebble with the word "hope" written on it... it made me well up then as your post has made me well up now. The pebble is still on the shrine/hall table, I think of it often...
Good post. xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Thank you Tracey.

    I know that many of us hate it when people say how strong we are, like, what other choice do we have? But I hope you will take it in the right spirit when I say how much I admired your strength to 'do' Christmas at three months.

    Hope. Sometimes it's all we have, isn't it?

    Thank you for such a lovely heartfelt comment. xxx

Lizzie
Reply December 18, 2011

As ever, you hit the nail on the head.
No tree for me, did do cards but needed the support of my sister sitting next to me doing hers to get through it. We agreed on a sentence that i could put in each card that tried to convey the trauma of the year without being bleak and negative. I found it hard on so many levels; seeing his writing in the address book, remembering times spent with people, writing 'mr and mrs' umpteen times.
I have one little string of lights up in the kitchen around some photos of the family and Ian. They have been there since last xmas when in a blaze of denial I kept everything the same. I rarely turn them on. But after reading your latest post, I have now. Xxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Oh Lizzie, I hope those lights will twinkle throughout Christmas. I have lights on a massive ficus tree in the kitchen but only recently turned them on. I'm glad I did - instead of tearing me apart they looked cheerful, though I wouldn't have been able to face cheer before then. Had I switched them on shortly after, I would have found a saw and hacked the ruddy plant to bits.

    We do things in our own time, though personally I have to rid myself of judging my grief and progress against others (Too fast compared to some? Too slow compared to others?). Your post reminds me that we each just have to do things when we can and we can when we are ready.

    A blaze of denial. Sums it up perfectly.

    xxx

Deena
Reply December 18, 2011

How lovely to find your post and on a Sunday ! to each and everyone, we will get through, hard as its going to be. I have put up a tree and blu tacked my cards around the rooms, all very strange for me in new surroundings.
I hand picked who I sent cards to, just those who have supported and made the effort every now and then to check I am alive!!!
The hardest part for me this year, is that it will be the first in 38 years that my house has not been full of family and friends, last year I got through my first Christmas by carrying on as "normal" but how I missed my "Wine Waiter" and his kiss, whilst handing me my glass of champagne.
I will have a house full on Boxing Day and so I have bought everything in Waitrose that I would normally have got, far too much, but it made me feel so normal to have a family shop at the checkout. Most of it will go down the waste disposal unit, but it gave me a much needed boost to fill the fridge.
I am dreading Christmas day out, knowing that at the first opportunity I will escape back to my little box, which still feels so alien, empty and unloved.
I also bought two packets of Blinis, more for the muncher !!!
To all of us December and Christmas a special time of togetherness, love , hopes and dreams, all gone now. But we WILL get through, we have little option but to !!!
To all, however next weekend goes, I hope you find some peace and a little hope through the darkness.
xxxx Deena xxxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Lovely post Deena - thank you.

    Looking forward to raising a glass of champagne with you in the New Year.

    Like you say, we have no option but to get through it, so we might as well get through it with bubbly!

    xx

Sue ab
Reply December 18, 2011

Lovely to hear from you. The first Christmas is the worst as you will have surmised. Mind, the others aren't totally fab either. I now have a new routine which is to go to my in laws who live in the countryside in Sussex but the first Xmas I needed to do at home and did.
Anyway the purpose of this letter is to introduce you to the festive sport of round robin bobbin'.
You can do this alone or with a friend. Crumple your round robin letters into a ball and try to whack them into the waste paper basket from the greatest possible distance across the room. Best of three or five is the winner.You can vary the amount of difficulty by throwing only with your left hand or kicking the bastard letter with your left foot as it goes up in the air. Compete against yourself if no one else is around or practise your technique so the unsuspecting guests find themselves at a disadvantage when faced with your prowess.
Bon courage for the days ahead, my thoughts are with you and anyone else facing this festering season for the first time without their partner.
Sue xx

    Angela
    Reply December 18, 2011

    Love this post!

      Denise
      Reply December 19, 2011

      This really made me laugh. Better than therapy!

        Planet Grief
        Reply December 22, 2011

        Sue ab: I do think you should be a guest blogger on Planet Grief next year. Your posts have us all either hopeful, thoughtful, comforted or in this case, hoping our bladders will hold out with all the laughing!!

        Brilliant. Just brilliant.

        xxx

mml
Reply December 19, 2011

Thank you for this post. It made me laugh, made me think, and made me feel a little comforted knowing that someone else is going through many of the same things as me.

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    MML: Welcome. Always lovely (though sad you are here) to see a new contributor.

    Please keep posting.

    Take care and thank you. xxx

Linz
Reply December 19, 2011

Thanks for the post Helen. I love the "Hope" decoration - perfect.
I have not been so brave as you - Not been able to write any cards, or buy any presents. I did splash out on a real tree, which I decorated, and that is about as festive as I have been able to get. I think that I am going to do presents later in 2012, rather than torture myself now, getting no pleasure buying rubbish presents that people probably don't want.
My "cured pig" moment in Tesco came when I saw the first tub of cheesy footballs. These were a Christmas tradition with James, and it was a shock to see them and think that he will never be there to share them again. In fact, I doubt I will ever buy them again - in all honesty, they are not even very nice!
Before the end of the year I am going to write a list of everything that I have achieved this year - it is easy to view 2011 as a disaster year that I just want to forget, but I have done lots of things and am going to try and be proud of those.
I hope that everyone has a Christmas that is as happy as it can be, and we can all remember the wonderful Christmasses that we have had before. xxx

    Sue G
    Reply December 19, 2011

    Hi Linz, with me it's the NUTS! Marc loved his Pistachios at Christmas, and for some reason they have been heavily advertised on telly this year. XX

      Planet Grief
      Reply December 22, 2011

      Linz: What a great idea, writing a list of everything you have achieved this year. I am proud of you for thinking of it. I am going to follow you, though depending on how much I have had to drink when I write it, it could feature anything from mending the dishwasher to finally getting rid of friends who I've been longing to ditch for years...!

      A Christmas that is as happy as it can be - so you Linz - thoughtful and yet positive. What a girl! No wonder James married you. xxxx

        Linz
        Reply December 23, 2011

        I have had my first round robin letter! Never had one before in my life - why did they choose this year to tell me about how "we three became four in April with the arrival of...."??
        I am glad I had read your post before it arrived though, and then I could laugh about it, and think about what I would put in my reply!
        I am impressed that you have been able to mend a dishwasher Helen - that should definitely go on an achievements list! xxx

          Planet Grief
          Reply December 23, 2011

          On Linz, thank goodness I wrote the post I did. I've had another one too, but the marvellous Gill P I wrote about in my post sent a beautiful handwritten letter to me and to my mum and dad. I knew she would.

          As for the dishwasher, actually I only stared in it, pushed some thing around and then got the manual out and went through a sequence of codes. It was progress of sorts; usually I would have just tottered through to wherever Sky Sports was on and asked JS to have a look at it!

          xx

Barb
Reply December 19, 2011

Brilliant....again ....keep writing am right there with you xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Thanks Barb, though I've just drafted something to post tomorrow and it's a bit teary. xxx

ChrisJ
Reply December 19, 2011

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst” was my motto a few years ago. Christmas now seems an annoying marketing and sales concept. My cynicism seems to get worse every year. Perhaps it is the smug adverts with their inane characters and their presumption that one just has to be jolly. Goodwill to all - but only for a few days - messages. Massive lists of deserving and needy causes. But they never seem to take into account how difficult it can be for those that have lost a partner. Instead there are the constant pictures of everyone having a good time. Newspapers and magazines full of lists of perfect presents for your loved one. Mandatory and glossy happiness wrapped in a shiny bow.

A year older, another wedding anniversary passed and now another Christmas to get through. Thoughts go back 4 years and it was around this time that I had to tell the children that this really would be their last Christmas with their mother. Didn’t want to do this but we were forced into it by the wicked witch of a Mother-in-Law who had been unable to keep her stupid mouth shut. Unforgivable.

Another particular hate of mine is the supermarket shopping. Hoards of people with their thought processes and decision making going slower than their static trolleys that block the aisles. Jesus, it’s only an extra couple of days food. And drink. Another paradoxical social construct is that you need to be drunk to be happy. Reality needs to be blurred.

Add all that to my bah humbug and perhaps you may understand why Christmas has a perennial diminishing sparkle and glitter for me.

Christmas cards, I realised this year that nearly all the ones I posted were addressed to a Mr and Mrs. Obviously the ones that are delivered are now just to "Mr". No decorations put up yet; I haven’t even opened all of the cards (know who they are from since I recognise the writing). Last year, I managed to blu-tack the cards to the wall. Perhaps No1 son may do the decorations?

As a former 365/24/7 shifty worker I worked my share of these festive days. Good excuse to avoid the trimmings that has to be balanced by the actual work aspect. But things are not all bad; my sons are grown up beyond a Santa list that inevitably always, frustratingly, included at least one unobtainable toy or game.

The superb irony is that I don’t have to be visited or worried by the Ghost of Christmas Past or the Ghost of Christmas Future since I have my hands full with the Christmas Present. It’s that one day at a time thing again.

Wishing you whatever brings you peace.

    Denise
    Reply December 19, 2011

    You've managed to sum up just the way I feel. I don't think I could get any more cynical about this Christmas lark if I tried. People go through the motions of being good and kind at this time of year but with a few exceptions it's usually superficial. I've hated the commercialisation of Christmas for years but at least when my husband was alive we could joke about it together.

      Planet Grief
      Reply December 22, 2011

      ChrisJ - Thanks. Another superb post from you.

      Just wish there was no need for this blog, none of you were in a position to contribute and we were all living our lives in blissful ignorance of each other.

      But we're not, but at least we have each other if only in a cyber sense.

      Take care.

Emma
Reply December 19, 2011

Feels like so much to say, but can't find the words....

Am with you... xxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Emma, I can write them but I can't say them.

    xx

Sue G
Reply December 19, 2011

Hi PG, having "run away" last Christmas and rented a cottage close by to both families (then ended up coming back early due to all of us going down with the winter vomitting bug) we have decided to stay at home and face up to it this year.
The tree is decorated, the cupboards and freezers are full, presents wrapped, purple and gold tableware waiting for the big day (saw it in Next ...very stylish lol) and we are hitting it head on this year.
Myself and my youngest daughter will be tackling the dinner...with a lot of help from Aunt Bessie..as Marc was always the Christmas Day chef in this house, and there's no way I can compete.
We are bloody well going to enjoy it, with the help of a few bottles of Asti, a couple of good stand-up dvd's, and a load of confectionary...and we will make Marc proud.
I have even sent cards (via Moonpig, so i didn't have to actually WRITE them myself) to everyone, having not sent any last year because I couldn't bear to send them from just me and the kids.
I am doing all this for my 6 year old Grandson, who misses his grandad desperately, but for who life has to go on.
I will cry watching Midnight Mass on the telly when he is fast asleep dreaming of Santa's arrival (I'm not religious but I LOVE Christmas Carols) and at 6am next Sunday I will put a smile on my face whilst we all sit around opening presents.
That will be our Christmas, our second without Marc.

My heart goes out to all of you, no matter how far along you may be on this impossible journey.
Wishing you love and peace for Christmas.

Sue G
XX

    Angela
    Reply December 19, 2011

    Good on you Sue. x

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Sue G - you know that bit in Les Mis where they are all standing and waving flags for victory (or something)? I feel that so many of us are standing there waving and cheering you on. I feel like that sitting at my computer and I bet others are on reading your post.

    You + Your Family + Aunt Bessie

    Go girl! xx

Deena
Reply December 19, 2011

Just had my first Round Robin today, from my late Husband's Security Chief's wife, he is in a home suffering from "Vascular Dementia" she is happy that now and then he knows who she is. I envy her, that her Husband is still alive, it has given me food for thought today though. I have concluded that to be able to touch and feel them no matter what would be better than having lost them completely. xxxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Deena - this is an interesting comment.

    When JS first died, a doctor who happened to be on the beach and saw JS pulled out of the water told me that even if he had survived, he would have been very brain damaged (he saw the colour he went). At the time, and for a few months afterwards I used to say that I would have had him in any state as long as he was alive. But as the time went on my view changed. JS was a very proud man and he would have hated for others to see him helpless. I concluded that (for me) if you love someone you always want what is best for them.

    Bloody hard though.

    xx

      Deena
      Reply December 22, 2011

      Bloody hard indeed !!!

      I was also told by my G P that had Ted lived he would have been an invalid, dependent on oxygen and probably bed or chair ridden, he would have hated that. Like you for months I would have had him in any shape or form, however I now realise and as my dear Dad used to say "there are worse things in life than dying" Best to hold dear the memories of these wonderful men, as they were.
      xxxxxx

        Deena
        Reply December 22, 2011

        and that contradicts my earlier comment !!! just goes to show that widow brain can't make its mind up, leaps from positive to negative without any warning !!!!

          Planet Grief
          Reply December 23, 2011

          Deena - positive to negative without warning. So true and it can happen within seconds. xx

Desiree
Reply December 20, 2011

You made me laugh and cry, and I found myself nodding in agreement with nearly everything you sad... I particularly like the reference to Viktor Frankl's book - something I read a few months ago.

xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 22, 2011

    Desiree - The book is amazing isn't it? I find it incredibly that the human spirit is so resilient even throughout terrible human degradation at the hands of others.

    Thank you for contributing. xx

Shelley
Reply December 22, 2011

Sitting at JFK reading this I have been giggling out loud, and then I feel your pain. I am so proud of you and how you have endured this incredible loss. Life has demanded much of you this year and as the amazing Viktor Frankl says: "In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning."
I admire you and wish you all blessings wonderful, in fairy lit magic.
With much love and biggest hug xxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 23, 2011

    Shelley, thank you. You have been a huge part of my healing process this year; an invaluable professional and a priceless friend. xx

Julia Cho
Reply December 23, 2011

yes...hope.

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 23, 2011

    And it is sent with love to both you and young Audrey. xx

Paula
Reply December 23, 2011

So deverstated my first without him my house is a tip i need to wrap gifts for my family
i have no food shopping i am cooking dinner just for me and my girls
Ihave to go to work soon its phased return so is only for four hours i work on the maternity unit at my local hospital i need to put a brave face on
Just want to curl up and die
sorry x

    Planet Grief
    Reply December 23, 2011

    Paula: Absolutely no need EVER to apologise here. I recognise how hard it is for those with children to keep going (literally just posted something along those lines and a right old sobby post it is too).

    So many of us will be thinking of you over Christmas. Will you post back either here or on another post about how you got on?

    Wish I could come round and zip the hoover around the house for you. Hardly do it in my own house, but would find how the nozzle fits and the dust bag empties for you. xxxx

      Paula
      Reply December 23, 2011

      Thankyou for your reply i didnt go in to work they told me that i could take the day off as annual leave i have cried and cried Now my tears have dried up my head is throbbing
      My aunt rang me and she took me shopping now i have a turkey in the fridge with all the trimmings Plenty of wine and i have treat myself to a bottle of port all i need is some lemonade i should be sorted
      I need to do some wrapping up and i find a duster.
      Might leave those to later

        Planet Grief
        Reply December 24, 2011

        Paula: I know that a messy house can be depressing, but I leave you with this thought: Do you think anyone gets to their final breath and thinks: I wish I had kept the house tidier?

        Do what you can and what you can't, ignore.

        Been a sobby afternoon for me too, so I join you in a throbbing head.

        Love, xxx

Lynsey
Reply December 23, 2011

I have read this, and keep coming back to it ....absolutely spot on!
Thank you ! xx

Jane C
Reply December 12, 2015

My Robin was killed suddenly in July and so now I am facing Christmas without him which is why I am commenting on a 4 year old post. Just want to thank PG and all who contribute for helping me feel I am not alone and I will come through this. I wish you all well. Xxx