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Thursday, 6 December 2018

The Right Words

You will have gathered that I love the lead-up to Christmas.  I enjoy making things for my friends, meeting up with them, even writing cards (but the last seems to take a very long time).

December is not a time of unmixed joy.  On 6th December 1995 my Father died.  On 5th December 2006 my Mother died.  And on 30th December 2010 my only sister died.  I have known what it is to wait and watch and weep with the dying when festivities are going on around.  And I have known what it is to long to be left alone when the world seems to be full of crowds.

Each December I meet professionally with families who are bereaved.  Christmas will never be quite the same again for them.  In a year or two Christmas will again be joyful in a different way but that first year it's just a time to be endured as best as possible.  Cards come through the door wishing "Merry Christmas" and the world is filled with festivity but all you want to do is crawl under a duvet.

Today I am meeting up with a friend who knew all my family - we've known each other nearly fifty years.  I know she will remember and mention my parents gently and sensitively.  We will laugh at memories of them just as we will laugh at the doings of my friend's grandchildren.  We are each enriched by our families, both past and present.

This is not intended to be a maudlin post but rather to say that few people can think of "the right words" to say to someone who is sad at this time.  The reason for that is simple: there are no "right words".  That doesn't mean that the other person is unfeeling or uncaring, just that they too are human.

I've thought long and hard as to whether to hit the publish button for this post because I know that these aren't the right words either.  However, I want to reach out to anyone who is sad - those who wait or weep or watch - and these words are all I have.

God bless.


  1. My father died in early June but his birthday is on Christmas Day which always made it super special. I will be asking my husband to propose a toast to Dad just before lunch. I don’t want to be maudlin either but I do want to remember his special day.

  2. Sadly there are many of us who dread Christmas; so thank you.

  3. Gerard's Mother died on Christmas 2000 but we still feel the pain. My nephew who ended his life would have been 32 today, he will be in our thoughts too. We have treasured memories.

  4. Oh how thankful to feel other people have the same feelings about Christmas as DH and I have. Our fathers both died at Christmas, FiL on Christmas Day 1984, two years later my father on 21st December. Forty years ago I was at my sister’s home, with her DH and my parents, on Boxing Day I escaped to visit my lovely, lively great aunt who was on her own to find her dead in her chair. This marked the end of the first half of my life, a few days later at a New Year’s Eve party I met DH, my whole life changed for the better.

    It is not just the deaths, growing up there was great pressure to ‘enjoy’ Christmas, my parents worked hard to ensure plenty of food, that they spent equal amounts down to the last sixpence on appropriate gifts for my sister and I but I remember the boredom of the day, hated having to watch the circus that followed the Queen’s Speech, my memories are of knitting and reading instead. We have

  5. What a beautifully written post. We were called to the hospital late on Christmas Eve 2016 as my dad wasn't expected to survive emergency surgery, thankfully he did pull through and is still with us, but it was a very strange Christmas indeed. I can only imagine what it must be like to actually lose someone at this time of year when everywhere you look people are celebrating and spreading joy. Nice to remember that real life continues amongst all the festivities.

  6. I'm glad you did hit the publish button.

  7. Your December sounds like my November -- for a long time it seemed like every bad thing was going to happen in November. Our Thanksgiving celebration is still a bit hard for me and I don't celebrate it like I used to. But, we soldier on, don't we? And no, there are no right words. This is a lovely post, not maudlin but thoughtful and something a lot of people need to read.

  8. Thank you for this is so true.My Dad died on December 1st 2014 and Christmas has never felt the same since.But my Dad loved Christmas and all the sparkly every year since then,instead of just feeling sad on that day,I trim the living room up with all my Christmas stuff,lights,Christmas teddies, garlands and tinsle because I know thats what he would have liked!xx

  9. Thank you, Mary - a very thoughtful post. My Dad felt poorly but kept going as he believed the few days off work over the Christmas period would give him the chance to recover. But he died on 27th December, just after I'd helped him downstairs to the warm living room from his cold bedroom upstairs.
    That was 51 years ago, but it still hurts that there's only me to remember that awful day when everyone else is celebrating Christmas, family get-togethers, shared meals, giving and accepting presents, drinking and being merry. But I have no wish to bring the mood down so I stick a smile on and join in, remembering that many people are going through the very same thing.