Oh, don't get me wrong - I adore Christmas. I love a glass of mulled wine by an open log fire and I get excited about Oxford Street lined with its sparkly decorations - lighting the way as we shop 'til we drop (in a last minute dash, if you are anything like me). The Southbank Christmas market fills me with joy and every year I try to work out exactly how many visits to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park would be socially acceptable at my age (I'm pushing it). I even get frustrated about my hate for mince pies and Christmas pud, as it rules them out of my full fat eating schedule.
But (and it is a very big but), with all of this festive cheer comes a huge dose of festive fear. Waves of anxiety hit me during the countdown to the 25th day of December, as I wonder how I am going to get through it without her - without Mum.
We lost my mother, Vivienne, in February 2012 to a very aggressive case of bowel cancer. Diagnosis to death was a horrifying sixteen days. There was no chance of treatment; the battle was over before she had a chance to fight. That was it. I was wrought with anger, frustration, despair and helplessness. I was broken.
When you lose someone, you often find yourself in a cliché firing line as, 'It was their time to go', 'Time is a healer' and 'Everything will be okay' are shot at you. Of course, people are trying to help as best they can (which is appreciated immensely), but it is so difficult to digest anything positive when things are painfully raw and you are suffocating in grief.
You are then faced with the 'firsts' and endless brutal milestones that only maximise the absence of the person you have lost. It is the strong sense of 'family' during Christmas that makes it one of the worst of them all. This can be easily forgotten. It shouldn't be.
Flashing back to December 2012, I was absolutely determined to find a different way to tackle the anniversaries that fill me with dread. My mum's 60th Birthday was approaching and I decided to create a tribute in her honour. With Eurostar vouchers as the last gift that she gave to me before she passed, I set off to Paris for a long weekend to scatter 60 handwritten postcards around the city. The same note on every card explained that I was there in her memory and were signed off with my email address, in case anyone was to find them.
When I returned to London, I was blown away as I began to receive emails from people around the world who had found one. Connections were made, a legacy was forming and my grief was lifted a little that Christmas, as I knew it was a project my mum would adore.
Death is still such a taboo in society today. We are so keen to tell the world what we ate for dinner through every possible social media avenue - so why can't we talk openly about the loved ones who are no longer with us? I wanted to speak out.
I started a blog 60 Postcards to share the magic of the postcards while using it as a platform to express my experience of grief. I receive countless, heartfelt messages from people who share their own stories and express an interest in becoming part of the project. With that in mind, I took a recent trip to New York City where I left postcard tributes on behalf of others.
Whether it has been two weeks, three years or forty years since a loved one has passed away - this season will, undoubtedly, be tough on the heart. Although we don our party hats, pull a cracker and put on our bravest faces - I strongly believe that it is okay to say, 'I'm not okay'. Mum reminded me that in her last days as she encouraged me to let myself feel whatever I feel. If I end up sobbing into my sprouts, then so be it.
We won't be able to stop the uncontrollable storms of grief. I'm sure I will have my moments over Christmas, including the occasional urge to grab every piece of tinsel in sight and chuck it out of the window with rage. But, using creativity is something that I have continued to find a comfort through the toughest times - providing a beautiful distraction from the pain, while keeping the memory of my wonderful mum alive.
For some it will be a Merry Christmas and for others it will be a 'get merry and get through it'. I'm adding, 'get creative' to the list, too.
To anyone who has lost, I hope that you manage to find moments of sparkle amongst the dark.Suggest a correction