Christmas is coming and we’d like to extend our warmest seasonal greetings to one and all ….
Along with many families who will have an empty space at their festive table, we will be setting a place for Josh, lighting a candle for him, drinking a toast and remembering happier times. Our last Christmas with Josh was in 2009 – we spent the season in New York – a great holiday with much to discover. Josh, with a free pass from his work at the Ministry of Sound had got access to a club for New Years Eve and the following day with his brother Joe, took a dip into the just above freezing Atlantic as part of the Coney Island New Years Day Swim. And he will never be forgiven for the stress caused when he wandered off in search of a sandwich just as we were about to board the plane back home – with the rest of us left stranded at the gate he eventually strolled up munching nonchalantly with just seconds to go before it closed. Memories that last the longest are probably those with the strongest emotional charge, even if they are tinged with certain frustration at a teenagers self absorption. A frustration now of course loaded with regret that there are now no more new Josh stories to be told.
For us Christmas is less, far less about any religious observance, more about an opportunity for the family to come together, all under one roof and to assert of love for one another – to celebrate and to strengthen our bond with one another. That we do this simultaneously with families up and down the country is also important, cementing us within a cultural framework and providing an emotional security as part of our ‘belonging’. So, as for many bereaved families, Josh’s forever absence is particularly painful, especially if that sense of belonging is disrupted not just by the trauma of death but by the isolation we often feel from a society that finds death or deathly memories a tad annoying when everyone is just trying to get on and enjoy themselves.
Jane spoke about this in the radio interviews she did on the day Dying Matters launched their BEING THERE campaign (see this post). She was asked to try and discribe what it felt like to be bereaved of a child in the run up to Christmas. Having lost both parents in the last two years, she tried to compare timely and untimely deaths – “when your parents die you lose your past”, she said, “when your child dies you lose their future”, a distinction possibly not well recognised by family and friends as they shell out seasonal greetings. While it is true that our own Christmas card count has decreased rapidly over the last few years (we don’t send and therefore don’t receive that many), of those we have received so far, only a few have mentioned Josh. We believe there is nothing ill intentioned about this, merely that people are somehow fearful that to talk about Josh is to cause extra pain at a time when we should be celebrating. This is of course a fear totally misplaced and probably speaks more to the senders fear about death and mortality than it does to their concern for our happiness. Click on the link below to listen to Jane on BBC Radio 5 Live
Christmas cards are probably one of our biggest bones of contention. We struggle with the cards who edit Josh out especially from those who knew him. What we say now is please do not be scared that you might make us upset. Every parent who has lost a child will be thinking about them and longing for them at Christmas and we are desperate that they should be acknowledged. There is a saying; “Your words may bring tears to our eyes but they are music to our ears.” And as the title of The Compassionate Friends’ short film emphasizes it is important to SAY THEIR NAME.
Listen here to more of Jane’s interviews across the nation
For some excellent tips for both bereaved and non bereaved click here for THE COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS guide to coping with Christmas