Our first Christmas without Greg was dreaded pretty much from the moment Greg died. When you think about it, that’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that one day should be feared so much more than any other. The situation is the same and ongoing. It’s ridiculous to apportion the pain of grief to one particular day. The pain is the same and ongoing. And the situation and the pain are so monumental it seems almost comical to me that this one single day is given such credence. A life without Greg – that is the thing to be feared, not Christmas!
But Christmas is a difficult time for the bereaved, and it always will be, because it is a day so laden with symbolism and history. And everyone understands this. Christmas is a time to be with your family, but your family unit has altered beyond recognition. Being together only accentuates those who are missing. Christmas is a time for tradition, but every tradition is a reminder of past Christmases that took place in happier times, where you were all present. Perhaps most difficult is the perceived joy that other people are having, with their families and their traditions that have remained unchanged by death or tragedy, which so starkly contrasts the way you feel.
We elected to escape and took a holiday. My only requirement was that it needed to be hot – otherwise it would just feel like Christmas elsewhere. It needed to be completely different; as un-Christmassy as it gets. The result was a week long holiday in Tenerife – arriving Christmas Eve and leaving New Year’s Eve. Both major events in the holiday period hence being sufficiently disrupted by travel arrangements that we hoped they would pass with only minor recognition.
Now I am here I believe this is the best thing we could have done. This doesn’t feel like Christmas, it feels like holiday. I may have been wearing a reindeer headband and my mum a ‘Bah Humbug’ Santa hat for the day’s duration, admittedly not a normal day’s attire, but other than that all very non-Christmassy.
Greg and I have done Christmas abroad before, in Australia. Dad and our siblings had been living there and we wanted to experience an Australian summer before they left for the not-so-exotic Aberdeen. The stifling, oppressive heat of the Australian summer truly was an experience and you have to admire the Brits over there for persisting with turkey and all the trimmings never mind the temperature. Whilst stuffing yourself with meat and potatoes is a comforting and warming tradition in Britain’s wet and windy winter it is more of a culinary battle to endure in Australia’s burning heat. It was lovely to spend Christmas day with our wider family and to be part of the excitement of younger siblings, but to me it just wasn’t Christmas. It started with a trip to the beach (customary Down Under apparently) and involved dipping in and out of the pool in my Dad’s backyard. But Christmas is about hiding yourself away from the elements (which are cold/ wet/ windy) with a hot toddy and a thick blanket, not revelling in them with nothing but a bikini and a pina colada.
So this year’s Christmas won on that front; it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. Sun; heat; a seaside stroll; a buffet breakfast; busy restaurants; and poolside sunbathing replaced the turkey roast; the presents; the Christmas tree; the games; the alcohol; and the films. It might be running and hiding but I think it was just what we needed this year.
However, in the world of social media you can’t escape the Christmases everyone else is having, and it’s hard for that not to inspire deep sadness. You run from Christmas but the fact you’ve run, and why you’ve done so, is ever present. Still, this year, given the circumstances, I don’t think we could have done it any better.