Christmas is over.
It’s been lovely. It really has. But……..
There’s always a but, isn’t there? When you’re grieving someone who’s still alive then there’s a but in everything.
When your kids open their presents – full of excitement and joy. Whoops of delight and wrapping paper crunching under your feet.
When your kids perform or sing in their nativities.
When you nail Christmas dinner – despite realising when your brother comes to carve the big fat bird that you’ve cooked the thing upside down!!!
When you meet a room full of relatives you’ve never met and it’s lovely and memorable and mind-boggling all at the same time, as it seems you’re related to half of Scotland.
There’s always a “but”. An “if only”. An “I wish….” A niggling thought. A pang of regret. Grief. Nostalgia for days long gone and drifting ever further into the recesses of memory and time.
Time is a thief, you see. Time sneaks up on you. You remember yesterday fondly. Last week is still within touching distance. But, before you realise it, before you can cement the tiny details to memory, time has created a chasm between you and those memories. A vast expanse of days and moments that lurk like a thick fog between you and your memories. Blurring them. Keeping them forever out of reach.
It is five years since Mum was at at my house for Christmas. Five years since she too cooked the turkey upside down! Five years since I spoke to my father on Boxing Day and raised my concerns about her memory and behaviour.
Four years since she was in a psychiatric ward for Christmas (a particular low point in this whole journey. Not recommended!)
Three years since she last had Christmas at home with my father, albeit a difficult and stressful one for all involved with Mum pacing the house searching, searching, searching for my dad. Unable to find him.
This year was my mother’s third Christmas in the care home.
Time, that sneaky little bastard has done it again.
There’s a saying that time is a healer. I don’t think that’s true. Not really. I think instead you learn to live with the pain. You learn to bury it beneath other stuff – the day to day act of living. Because you cannot be in a state of constant grief – it would be so debilitating – but it lurks. The grief finds a spot inside you and lurks there, whispering at you. Tapping at your shoulder when you least expect it. Hovering at every happy, family event, ready to knock the breathe from you without warning.
But, you learn grief’s ways. You recognise when you’re weak and you learn to manage those moments better.
And I don’t resent my grief, though it has embarrassed me on many occasion and floored me on many more. My grief is my memories. It is my childhood. It is my nostalgia and my youth. My grief is the future my mum will never have. It is the time with her grandchildren she is missing. It is the travelling she never got to do. The dances she never got to dance.
It is the love she had for us all and the love we have for her.
Grief is love.
You are the unwilling recipient of one, when you were lucky enough to have the other.
And the turkey? It was delicious. A highly recommended way of keeping your bird moist. Upside down roasting. Not sure you’ll find it in any of Jamie Oliver’s or Gordon Ramsey’s turkey recipes, but my mum? She’d have laughed and told me I’d done a marvellous job.
Miss you, Mum x
N.B: In loving memory of a friend and supporter of my blog, Loraine Walker who tragically lost her battle with cancer in November. She was such a warm, giving and fabulous lady who cared about others deeply. RIP, Loraine. I will miss our chats.
“You are the unwilling recipient of one, when you were lucky enough to have the other.”
That is so very brilliant. Sending much love across the vast ocean to you and your family.
Thank you. Sending love right back at you and yours. I’m sure this Christmas has been tough for you. xxxx
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Hello again, Sarah!
Just wanted to say I cook my turkeys upside down too!
Best. Way. Ever!
Sadly I don’t have photographic proof…they got eaten! 😂
Mum and Dad have been with us over this Christmas period and we’ve had a good time, but I let a little thought creep in…what would next year be like? Now I’ve thought it, it won’t go away. I’ll do my utmost to carry on as ‘normal’, you have to, to retain your sanity.
Hi Janine! Thanks for the reassurance about the turkey! I must say it was delicious.
Keep smiling and brush those thoughts away – you can only deal with one day at a time. Sending much love
Hi Sarah, I can empathise with so much of what you say in this post, especially about grief being the consequence of love. I said the same thing to my sister on Boxing Day, as I sat on her bed sobbing over the loss of our mother two months ago. Both Mum and Dad had dementia and Dad died last October (thanks, Mum and Dad, for ruining October/the autumn for me forever more!), so we have gone from both of them being here in 2017, to just Mum last Christmas and neither of them this year. And, as you say, the memories of happier times get harder and harder to recollect. Don’t you find, with dementia, that you have to squash those memories, so as not to be continually devastated by the changes in your loved one? If, instead, you try to adapt to the new person they are continually becoming, it seems a little easier to bear. But then, when you want to summon those memories, they have all but disappeared. So very, very hard. Wishing you and your family all the best for the coming year. xx
Hi Helen, I am so so sorry to hear your news. And yes, I agree completely. You quash the memories so you can actually keep on functioning. So you can cope with the dementia. It would be impossible to cope with the constantly changing and devastation that dementia brings without hardening to it.
I do believe the memories will return though, once the shock of what you have been through fades. Or that’s what I hope anyway.
Sending lots of love to you and your family. Thinking about you.
Thanks so much, Sarah. xx
Sarah, you write so compellingly on a festive occasion overshadowed with strong emotions. You face head on what is, and wish for what could have been. My heart goes out to you and yours in this post-holiday season.