I'm properly feeling Christmassy this year, I'm filled with a childish sense of excitement about putting up a tree and brewing mulled wine. I'm ready to get cosy (or hygge - that word stolen from those gorgeous Danes). I am practically seconds away from putting up a tree. However it has actually taken a while for me to get back into the idea of Christmas since my father died and I am totally empathetic to anyone that has lost someone and is facing the daunting prospect of a nostalgic Christmas ahead. My dad used to enjoy this season so much that it is literally impossible not to think about and miss him.
Our first Christmas without him was probably the most difficult. We felt at the time that it was just something we needed to get through and I could not imagine that there would ever be a moment when we would look forward to Christmas again. Instead of getting together with the rest of the family, my mum and I went to a local homeless shelter in Canterbury and immersed ourselves in festive cooking. There we met people who really did need a reason to be cheerful on a daily-basis and I cannot tell you how much being with them grounded us and took us out of our own grief. The incredibly kind men and women we chatted to, thanked us for taking the time to be with them, but really we knew they were the ones who had helped us.
It is almost seven years ago that my dad died, which seems ridiculous, because in a way I cannot believe we have been apart for that long - but of course I remember it as though it was yesterday. And although I think of him at least a few times a day, the thoughts don't make me cry anymore. I very much wish that he had been here to at least meet my husband and children, but there's a part of me that accepts the situation now and finally it is OK. Finally the moment in time when things become less raw has arrived. That moment of relief from the sadness that somehow grips at your thoughts as you try to navigate through life. That sadness that makes you want to stop thinking, try to numb out the pain and block out the memories. Finally that time has come when they can flow again and it is OK.
In fact, to me, it seems to be a real marker of having healed from our sadness as a family that we are now able to celebrate Christmas again. We are very much looking forward to all getting together this year and I am excited to have that moment when we are all in the kitchen preparing our meal. We are lucky enough to be housed and surrounded by loved ones and although we will undoubtedly think of our absent adorable dad, this year and every day of the year ahead will be absolutely tinged with joy.
For information on how to help the homeless this Christmas visit http://www.crisis.org.uk