Dr Ciara Kelly: 'All I really wanted for Christmas...'
I wrote this column in December but didn't want to drag everyone else down with it then. So like a lot of people, I didn't talk about how I was feeling in the run-up to Christmas, instead I saved it until now.
This Christmas was my second with neither parent. And the festive season really does amplify loss. If Christmas is a time for getting together with family and a large part of family is gone - what then?
Christmas is also about tradition. So many of the little things we do are set in stone. But if you can't eat her plum pudding and you can't have a whiskey late at night, watching an old black and white with him - when those things are gone - there's a hole exposed in you, that was once filled with them.
Loss is made up of little things. It sinks in, in layers. You're walking round the supermarket and you wonder - does she need milk? You're making a cup of tea and you think no, he likes it a bit stronger. You set an extra place setting... They are woven into the fabric of us. It cannot be unpicked. And you wouldn't want to unpick it either. We are the sum of this love.
Or you hear a joke you know they'd love and wish you could tell them. A song on the radio brings you back to a shared time when you were happy. You just miss them. And it's a bit shit really - there's no better way to describe it. I read one of those inspirational memes once (most of them are a bit s**t too), it said "So many of us are trying to heal from something we don't talk about". And I thought that's true. Most of the things that make us saddest aren't what we talk about. We talk about rubbish. What actually sits at our core, as a sorrow - we rarely mention.
I read a different inspirational meme recently too. It said "Don't wait for things to get better, life will always be complicated. Learn how to be happy now, otherwise you'll run out of time". And I think that's the lesson we must learn.
Life's never going to be perfect, or even always good. You could look back on this time, hard and all as it is and realise actually things weren't so bad. Because we don't know what lies ahead for us.
I seem to hear quite a lot lately about people who've lost someone. I don't know if that's a function of age or if it's just me picking up on it because it resonates - like when you're pregnant and you spot pregnant women everywhere. But it feels to me like many people I know or have met recently seemed to struggle this time around with a season that was tinged with sadness despite the tinsel and the fairy lights all around.
Or perhaps it isn't just a function of age, it's a function of life. There will always be rough with smooth. There will always be lows with highs. And maybe the highs are all the sweeter for the lows.
But I think all we can do is try to make the most of today. We only suffer a terrible loss because we were lucky enough to have had something wonderful to lose. And the truth is they are still with us. Woven into us. I regularly hear my mother's laugh at things that are absurd, quirky or occasionally a bit bold! I hear my dad's good advice come out of my own mouth when I talk to my kids. Oh, I know it's not the same. It's not nearly as good as them being here but in a real way they remain with us. Woven. With us as we embrace 2019 - just keep walking.
@ciarakellydoc Ciara presents 'Lunchtime Live' weekdays from 12-2 on Newstalk
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