Your first Christmas without your Mum or Dad – part 2
Check out this video and then let’s chat.
So I’m going to assume that you did exactly what I did. Watched the video, focusing intently on the team in white and were SO very proud of yourself for getting the right number. Little smug mental pat on the back there. Then they mention something about a moon-walking bear. A moon-walking bear? What the…?! Then they play the video again and you see, right there in the centre of everything, some guy dressed in a (really unconvincing) bear suit actually moon-walking right through the middle of proceedings. And you think ‘yeah right, there was definitely no moon-walking bear there before – I would’ve seen him! They think I’m daft’…so you play the video back to prove yourself right……. and find out that actually he was there all along….you just didn’t see him.
So why am I showing you a moon-walking bear? Is it that I promised you three blogs and now I can’t think of what to write….so I’m trying to distract you? Nope. 😉 I think this video is a perfect demonstration of the fact that you won’t notice what you aren’t looking for. Particularly if you are looking for something else.
What on earth do I mean by that? Dealing with your first Christmas without your mum or dad has a lot of similarities to the video you just watched.
You will only see what you are looking for.
So what happened with the moon-walking bear? We often imagine that we have a clear understanding of everything that goes on around us. We think that our eyes and our other senses tell us the whole story, that we see the truth. We trust them. But there is only so much we can take in and process at one time so we have to be very selective. Our brains are designed to let us keep an awareness of what is going on around us (so you don’t get hit by a car while crossing the road talking on your phone) while also allowing us to focus in on particular things. How on earth would you be able talk to someone at a noisy party otherwise? We choose to focus in on them and for the duration of that conversation – if they are interesting enough – we ‘turn the volume down’ on all the other sights and noises. If they aren’t that interesting we just turn the volume down on them and tune in to the amusing drunk guy trying to hit on the clearly-uninterested girl at the bar next to us. (I KNOW you’ve done this too). We know all the background stuff is going on but we aren’t focused on it. The same thing happens on Christmas day when you are trying to make sense of the changes, of the person who is missing.
What will you be looking for?
Here is what typically happens on your first Christmas since your mum or dad died. You will be looking, staring intently, at an empty space. You will spend time thinking about the fact that your mum or dad isn’t there. You’ll feel sad when you think about how they should have been sitting in that chair right there. It upsets you that there are no presents for them, that you can’t pour them a drink, that someone else has to drive when they normally would have (the case with my dad). You miss their jokes and laughter and presence. You focus on what isn’t there and it hurts you.
What will you miss out on seeing?
Firstly, if you are totally focused on the person who isn’t there you will miss all of the people who are. On that first Christmas day for me there were still probably 10 of us there with another 5 or 6 people showing up at various times during the day. But we were all too busy staring at the two ‘spaces’ (my dad and nana) that we didn’t even notice each other.
But that’s not all that you’ll miss. Some huge changes go on after the death of your mum or your dad. It might look like there are spaces or roles that are now empty but the universe loathes a void and will always fill empty spaces. Your family has started to change and shift and adapt. Relationships are changing. Your role, your siblings roles, your remaining parent’s role, your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents roles – these are all flexible and will be changing. This is happening in your friendships too. Your grief and experience of bereavement will be bringing you closer to some people and moving you away from others. It is a time of enormous transition. After Dad died my mum and my brother and I got a whole lot closer. Our relationships with each other changed totally. My mum and her siblings, particularly her sister, grew closer. Certain family members and friends got in touch more to support us. For you it might not be within the family, it might be more through your friends. But have no doubt, things are changing and shifting. There is some real beauty that goes on in the relationships around you, particularly around those closest to you, and you won’t notice a blind bit of it if you aren’t looking for it. There will be a gang of moon-walking bears (the people you love and the new and changing relationships) parading through your living room in pink tutus, but if you are too busy staring at the team in white passing the ball (the ‘empty’ spaces) you’ll never spot them. And that’s a real shame.
So what should you do?
Like I said in the last blog, I am in no way suggesting you try to block out or not think about your mum or dad. Here’s what I want you to do differently though – just keep your eyes open. Pay attention to who is there. Take the time to notice the people around and how your feelings for them and the way you relate to each other is changing…and appreciate that. After my dad died my brother and I shared probably the only spontaneous hug (not including airport hellos and goodbyes) of our adult lives. It was years before I could look back and appreciate what a special moment that was and how our relationship was transforming. I wish someone had pointed it out to me then.
Notice who else is now involved in your Christmas that wasn’t before or who is more involved. Look at who is doing the driving now or making the jokes or carving the turkey.
On Christmas day take a conscious couple of minutes to be grateful and say ‘thank you’ for each of the people present and the role they are playing in your life right now. Do this however you like – pull out a pen and paper, take 2 minutes in the toilet by yourself, sit down with a glass of wine somewhere quiet for a couple of minutes, or say it to them directly. By all means, sit down in the toilet with a glass of wine and a pen and paper and yell to them through the door if that’s your thing…… just find a place and way that works for you to do it.
If you can start to do this, even just a little bit, and not just on Christmas day, I promise you (and I don’t say that lightly) that you will start to notice and appreciate things that you haven’t before. This one little thing will start to open your eyes and change your perception about what is going on around you and within your family and life right now.
Meet me back here tomorrow and I’ll post the last of these three Christmas blogs where I’ll talk about how to consciously include your mum or dad in your day so you can feel connected to them as well as connected to the people around you.