christmas is a difficult time
Christmas always stirs up a range of difficult emotions for me.
It was this time of year my dad passed away suddenly when I was 16. I recall the day very clearly. It was just after Christmas and I’d done back to school.
On returning home, there was an ambulance and lots of neighbors about. One of our neighbour Christine took me aside and told me that my dad had ‘had a fall’
I didn’t really know what that meant, or what was going on. There was a lot of confusion.
My neighbour took me to get my mum who was at work.
And then the police were there. They spoke to my mum and she started crying.
Then the emergency services left. And then there was a lot of quiet. I remember my mum and all of my brothers standing in a circle, hugging, stunned, bewildered.
Boys don’t cry
I can remember how I felt; empty, hollow, lost. But I didn’t cry. I barely ever cry. In fact, it took over a year before I did. Some of this is probably who I am. I can struggle to identify how I feel. Labelling emotions can be tricky.
In fact, our house had a limited range of emotions which were allowed and expressed. And my school, which just for boys was very similar. Control, or suppression, of emotions was key.
Occasionally people, teachers, friends, asked ‘how are you?’, or ‘Are you ok?
How do you know if you’re OK?
I didn’t really know what to say. ‘Yes’ was the easiest answer. I’m not really sure they knew what to do or say either.
There wasn’t really any help offered to understand what had happened. I found out years later one of my brothers’ was given counselling by his school.
It’s my fault
One thing I did do, was find reasons to blame myself.
‘I could have not gone to school’
‘I could have come home earlier’
‘It’s my fault’
‘I could have kept him alive, somehow…’
Look after yourself
I had these thoughts for a further 25 years or so, until I addressed them myself via counselling. And I’m glad that I did.
Looking back, maybe this was all just inevitable. I was always emotionally a bit behind most folk, feeling worried or bewildered much of the time.
If I was to have had some help at that time, it would have had to involve learning about my emotions, and myself first, or perhaps alongside some help.
But that didn’t happen, I suspect it didn’t exist, or at least was out of reach for me. I think it took becoming very depressed and burned out to put me on a path to learn about all of this.
I’m genuinely glad now that I have some peace and understanding about all of this now.
And I’ve learned self-compassion. I teach my children emotional awareness and how to look after themselves. And I help my patients to do the same.
And so, back to Christmas. Have the Christmas you have. It is what it is, and that’s ok. Seek help if you need it from those you trust.
Let me know your thoughts below.