It’s no secret that I am looking forward to Christmas being over. The excitement ramped up a couple of notches over the weekend with decorations being proudly displayed on social media, talk of gift buying, Christmas songs, advent calendar opening, and elves on shelves.
While I do not resent others’ excitement over the festive season, it adds to my sense of loss. I have been reading a grief book based on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), and part of that is about training your mind to weed out unhelpful thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are more helpful. It’s not easy, and takes time – both to recognise and replace such thoughts when you are feeling low.
I have also been trying to practice mindfulness – awareness of ourselves and the world around us – well, since Saturday, when I bought a book about it. I have been pushing myself so hard with writing and other things so I do not have spare time to think, or let my mind drift off to those painful places.
The trouble is, I am not being kind to myself. I am also not giving myself time to properly grieve the loss of Hugo.
I love Hugo deeply and fiercely. I shall grieve for him deeply and fiercely.
Last night, I took myself away from social media and spent time looking at my photos of Hugo. Of course, I look at them all the time – I have framed photos displayed at home, Hugo’s photos adorn my lock and home screen on my phone and laptop, and they are all over my blog and social media.
However, it has been a while since I have sat and truly looked at the photos. I went through a phase of not getting absorbed in Hugo’s photos, because it hurt so much.
Looking through the photos last night was difficult, and emotional. I am glad I did it though because I rediscovered this photo.
I love this photo because Hugo is being Hugo – his arms are supposed to be tucked under the yellow cloth (I used to tuck it into my bra to get my smell on it, then put it in the incubator with Hugo to get his smell on it – another way of bonding when you are separated), and his feet are supposed to be in his nest, all snug. Hugo, however, had other ideas: his arms are flailing around, and you can see the fingers of his right hand wiggling around. His feet – I have so few photos of his feet, in so many photos they are obscured by a probe, or wrapped in cotton wool – so precious! He’s flexing his toes. You can also see his handsome face really well, especially that gorgeous well-formed nose.
Studying that photo was bittersweet, yes, but it put a smile on my face. While I am heartbroken that I will never be able to see just how wilful my little boy would grow up to be, so much of Hugo’s personality is summed up in one photo.
Last night I had a brainwave. I am still disengaged from Christmas, but I realised I have a choice: I can spend the next month getting more and more cross and upset at the festive season, or I can do something to try to keep my mind off it.
So, I have invented 31 Days of Mindfulness. During this month, I will post a photo on Instagram of something that has made me smile, or helped me appreciate the joy in the day. There are likely to be days when I do not feel like smiling, or appreciating joy – and that is ok too – I might draw a picture of how I am feeling and take a photo of that. This exercise is a way to help me actively connect with my feelings every day, and record them too.
It is open to anyone, if you would like to join me: you do not need to have suffered a loss, or have a ‘bah humbug’ attitude to Christmas. Everyone can benefit from mindfulness, and this month can be pretty stressful whether or not you are looking forward to the big day.
Mindfulness, to me, is about feeling whatever you feel (it’s supposed to be non-judgemental), so there are no daily prompts. Post a photo of whatever is relevant to you in finding a bit of joy or happiness that day, however fleeting – or that reflects how you are feeling that day. Please do use the hashtag #31daysofmindfulness so we can find each other.