- Anthea Lovatt
Christmas has always been a difficult time of year for me. It doesn’t seem to get any better over the years but I will admit since moving to Vancouver two years ago, the sadness around this season has lessened slightly; maybe because I am distracted with new activities, friendships and finding simple pleasures in the beautiful creation that surrounds me each day. Or maybe it’s because I am far away from “home” and it has become an escape for me.
Life is different now that I am living here. Although I teach children a few times a week and spend time helping clients reach their goals, I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge that grief is still there.
Losing a loved one is hard to overcome. I don’t think you ever overcome it, though. Some package their grief in a box and put it on a shelf and carry on with life. Others feel that pain and embrace it. They go through ebbs and flows of different emotions that come with grief. I guess I am one of those. I used to make my life look perfect and pretty. I hated getting messy with my crap. I wanted people to think I had it all together and I felt great. What many didn’t know was that I was that girl crying out for her Dad. I wanted him back and I still do. 14 years ago on December 14, I experienced one of the most traumatic and devastating times on my life. I was with my Dad that night. I called 911 and he died in the ambulance. Thankfully my Mum got home before he was rushed to the hospital. They locked eyes. But that was the last time my Mum would see her husband’s eyes here on earth. This story is too painful for me to share. I have only shared it with two others. That night changed my life and I know it changed the life of our whole family. We miss him.
I have learned that grief can’t be rushed or shoved into a corner. It is a process. It creeps up on you when you least expect it. I have gone through several years, months and days and been good. But really, what does good mean? Does it mean I am not crying or feeling sad? Does it mean I don’t think of my Dad and feel like I should be balling my eyes out? Have I forgotten about him? What does his voice sound like? I am not sure I can answer that question. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I have had many days and months where I have been happy and enjoying life. There are those days though when out of nowhere I get hit over the head with that loss and that longing to hear his voice again, to feel that embrace and him tell me that everything is going to be ok. Bottom line? Christmas time sucks. It brings up so many memories. Difficult ones. Christmas time was our family time. I have some of my best Dad memories during this time of year and I want them back, especially singing around the piano. The harmonies we could sing. Ah those memories are sweet ones.
Mum had decorated the Christmas tree days before Dad died and the house glistened of the festive season. I had gone out and bought Dad his practical gifts and wrapped them and put them under the tree. No one expected him to die that night. We carried on with Christmas that year but it felt empty and since then, there will always be that void.
For those of you who are experiencing grief, especially during this time of year, you are not alone. It is so painful and difficult. I understand you wanting that person you loved so deeply to be by your side this holiday season. I understand that void and that longing to be near them. I understand those tears, that sadness and that emptiness.
I look at grief like the ocean. The waves can come crashing in out of nowhere and force you down on your face, or at times the tide is way out there and it is peaceful and calm. The movement and rhythm of grief is different for everyone. Sometimes you have no choice, which way the winds move.
I try to embrace all of those moments and not dwell on my loss but accept it as a part of my life. One thing I have learned is that books never helped me and I think the best way to learn about grief is by expressing our stories, sharing our hearts and being vulnerable. Many choose to avoid sharing because it’s too painful. And let’s be honest, who wants to get messy and ugly in front of other people. I am learning over the years, that my greatest strength is showing up as me, owning my story (thank you Brene Brown) not pretending I have my life all packaged so beautifully. Within the mess of grief comes the biggest blessing of all, and that is sharing with others what I have been through and hopefully encouraging more to do the same. We all go through it. If you haven’t already, you will. Sadly it’s a part of life that no one wants to deal with. Whether you embrace it, or package it up in that pretty box and put it on the shelf, it will find its way to your heart and eventually you are going to have to get messy.
Fourteen years later and grief is still part of my story and will continue to be for the rest of my life. It’s messy but it can be good.
From my heart to yours, Merry Christmas! xx