The Christmas season can be a tough time of year. Like many others, my thoughts at times will be with those who aren't here to enjoy the festivities with me. I imagine this is true not just for people who've lost dear ones through bereavement (like me), but also through relationship breakdowns, or to illness. And for those who are longing for children who aren't here yet.
Every year, I do something to acknowledge my feelings about who's 'missing' - whether it's giving to charity, or creating rituals to fully appreciate my son and husband.
So what am I doing this time? Well, it's a time of year that we hear plenty about "goodwill to all'', and that got me thinking. What Christmas really means to me is connection. Being with. Spending time with our family and friends. Spending time just being, with ourselves and all our feelings.
This year I plan to honour the memory of my lost loved ones by dedicating the whole month of December to kindness. In fact, from this point on, Christmas may even be known as 'Kindmas' in our house.
How will I do this? By just bringing kindness into each day as much as possible - in how I treat others, and how I care for myself. I'm not aiming for the sort of self-depleting kindness I've slipped into in the past - by taking responsibility for and trying to fix everything. I just mean leaning towards kindness whenever possible. All those little interactions we have with others during the day are opportunities to offer a little warmth and understanding.
Don't get me wrong, I not some sort of saint. There are times when I judge my own behaviour as less than kind, when I feel regret for my words or actions. That's human. And when it happens this December I plan to be extra gentle with myself. When we slip up, we need to extend that spirit of goodwill to ourselves, warts and all.
To keep me in touch with this intention, I'll be creating a kindness calendar which will sit alongside our traditional advent calendar. I'll put a message of kindness into each of the pockets, one to read each morning with my little boy. My hope is that in starting the day by dwelling on kindness, it will stay with me as the day wears on.
When we've suffered loss or bereavement, it can be hard to enjoy life without feeling we've left the 'missing' ones behind. So I can't think of a better way to honour those who aren't here this Christmas, than by spreading a little more love to everyone, including ourselves.
If you have a similar seasonal ritual or intention, I'd love to hear about it - tweet me @sheilabayliss