The second Christmas after Hugo. It’s fast approaching.
It’s a funny old time. In many respects, the days are just like other days but Christmas always carries such a special poignancy doesn’t it? With that poignancy comes a heavy helping of expectation, immersed in families who seem to be so bloody happy.
We’re not looking forward to Christmas as such. However our second Christmas after Hugo feels, as promised by other parents who have followed the path before us, different.
This year I am doing my best to be magnanimous, sanguine, to approach the festive season with a kind of resignation.
A sense of something to be got through, survived.
This too shall pass.
This sentiment is contrasted with my feelings of last year: I was full of pent-up anger, fury, rage at the world. I just could not wait for Christmas to hurry up and be over. Last Christmas was supposed to be our first as our little family, Baby’s First Christmas. Hugo would have been far too young to have appreciated it of course, but it was supposed to have been so special.
I was resentful of the families making preparations, their little ones dressed in cute little outfits, celebrating time together.
I accepted a friend’s challenge to find some beauty in Christmas – and to my surprise, I did. My love of all things sparkly helps, I think.
Of course, while the day itself presented challenges I survived.
That knowledge is helpful for coping with this year’s festivities. All the ‘firsts’ have come and gone: Hugo’s first birthday, the anniversary of his death…each anniversary has in its own way been horrid, but I am still here.
It’s important to recognise that while it feels ‘better than last year’ it doesn’t mean things are better. It is ‘better’ as in ‘not as bad’, rather than resolved. It might seem pedantic, but it’s a useful distinction to remember if you are in a similar situation for whatever reason, or you know someone who is.
Hugo, if he was with us, would at 18 months old be still be too young to appreciate what Christmas is all about. But just like my friend’s little boy who is the same age as Hugo would be he would be entranced by the decorations and the pretty lights. I love seeing my friend’s little boy’s face light up in joy and delight at the festivities. But, of course, it gives me such a heavy feeling in my heart that I shall never see Hugo’s reaction.
There is always a Hugo-shaped hole in my heart, of course, every day. But at such times it seems to have extra emphasis because it is a reminder of everything that Martin and I wanted, everything that we had, everything we lost and now do not have.
Just like many Mummies I want to spoil my little boy, especially at Christmas. I look at the toys and the cute little outfits (my boy would, of course, be very stylish).
It breaks my heart all over again.
When choosing a present for Hugo I have to consider whether it will endure the elements outside in his garden. I’ve chosen for him some little sparkly Christmas trees that look very pretty, and I have a couple of other things to take on Christmas Eve too.
So what are Martin and I doing this Christmas?
I have a mostly clear diary. We will be by ourselves doing what we want when we want. It’s much easier that way. It is nothing personal against anyone else, but we have to do what is best for us.
No false smiles.
No one feeling like they are treading on eggshells, not knowing what to say or what to avoid saying.
No decorations, other than the star fairy lights we usually have up anyway. Knowing we had bought out tree and decorations two years ago while I was pregnant in anticipation of seeing our baby’s delight at them is too much.
I have few expectations. My focus is on trying to be kind to myself. There is a lot of chocolate and wine in the cupboard.
I’ll probably be doing my best to avoid social media. Avoiding not only the little barbs of other families’ happiness, but also in a bid to avoid getting too cross about what feels to me to be trivial moans about the usual gripes.
On the gift tags I have written I have found wishing the recipient a ‘Happy Christmas’ difficult; it feels insincere because I don’t feel it (I will probably never be a politician). In lieu of cards, I have donated money to First Touch to help other babies in Hugo’s memory.
Instead, I have been focusing on a new year.
2016 is around the corner. I was dreading the arrival of 2015 because it meant the departure of 2014, the year in which Hugo lived.
But I have survived 2015, even thrived in many ways. Despite, and because of.
2016: A new year, new opportunities for dreams to be realised.
And the hope that next Christmas, while it will be our third after Hugo, may bring with it a new hope.