Christmas without mum

Recently my mother died unexpectedly. I can’t stand the thought of Christmas here without her so I was going to go overseas. Is this a good idea?

You are hesitant and unsure. After a sudden loss such as this, it is natural to be undecided. Losing someone unexpectedly is a shock. Your trust in the certainty of life has been shaken. You wonder if anything will work out. You don’t know what you can rely on anymore.

Christmas is a time when families get together. Anyone who has lost a loved one during the year is going to find Christmas a challenge. Christmas is one day of the year that we usually remember. It triggers many associations.

You are keen to escape from the emotions that you fear could engulf you during Christmas day. You think being overseas will solve this for you.

Here or overseas, you will find it impossible to get through the day without thinking of your mother. She has been around all of your life. You have shared many Christmases with her. There is no use pretending you can put her out of your mind. Once you accept that you cannot escape the memories and sadness, the best course of action is to build these into the day.

You can do this by creating some ritual for acknowledging your loss, and celebrating her life. Some people light a candle and say a prayer. Others look at photos and relive Christmases past. Nearly all feel sad and cry.

Undertake the ritual early in the morning. This way you will loosen the grip of any emotions that might arise later in the day.

When we lose a dear loved one, we feel bruised and hurt. We don’t want to socialise. If we do, we frequently feel out of it, separate, not ourselves. Powerful emotions threaten to surface. We stress trying to keep the feelings buried. Consequently, we either drink too much or avoid social gatherings all together.

Socialising is a part of Christmas. Family, friends and colleagues want to spend time with you. But you want to avoid them. You can’t be bothered with small talk. The death of someone close commands your attention. It asks the big questions of life. Everything else seems trivial.

Going overseas enables you to avoid these insignificant social interactions. It is the perfect excuse. You cannot attend if you are elsewhere.

At times the feelings of loss can overwhelm. You might not feel ready to face the totality of your loss. Escaping overseas eases the pressure of Christmas. It gives you space to breathe, to get used to Mum not being around.

Going away will not avoid the grief, only delay it and soften its immediate impact. This is legitimate. You decide how much you grieve and when. If you feel attracted to going overseas, there is nothing wrong with acting on this. The rest of your family might not understand. This is not your problem.

Only you can live your life and decide what is right for you at any point in time.