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The empty space in my heart
Danielle writes the blog The Autism Diaries about life as a parent with a child with an ASD diagnosis. In this guest post, she talks about dealing with the grief and loss of her mother and thinking about the christmas traditions of her past and the differing christmas traditions of her present and future with her family.
I’m sat staring into the warming glow of the lights on my Christmas tree as I write this. I’m listening to Christmas carols on my headphones. At this time of year they give me the virtual hug I so desperately need. You see, almost six years ago I lost my mum to cancer. And at Christmas time, no matter what I do, the wound re opens. Totally fresh, as though the loss happened only yesterday. I thought it would get easier year after year. But it doesn’t. I’ve learnt over the last two years in particular to really embrace the moments of sadness, the loss and the yearning. The yearning for just one last hug.
My child has struggled the last two years at Christmas time. The sensory overload, the people, the noise, the busy calendar. And somehow that’s made my loss even more raw. Because those traditions that I so very long for, they just can’t happen. Every year as a child I went to the candle lit carol service with Mum and Dad, sometimes brother in tow. I always thought that my children would love to see the candles, the flowers and the trees at church. But autism put a road block up that we couldn’t get passed. My family have never been to church together at Christmas. It was one of my favourite moments as a child (particularly the mince pies after the annual carol service – my record was 9).
I know I should be looking to form new traditions with my family, and we are. But traditions pass from generation to generation. That’s why they are traditions. And sometimes the pain of not being able to carry on Mum’s traditions is like taking a bullet to the heart. Because she isn’t here to form new ones. To form the autism friendly traditions that we as a family are so ready to embrace.
But if she was here, if she was sat next to me staring into the sparkle of the lights with a cup of tea (wine when I was old enough) as we always did on the first night our tree was up, I know exactly what she would say. “There’s always a way Danielle. There’s always a way”. And there is. So whilst I always take the time to think of Mum at this time of year, it is to Christmas trains, Christmas tree stars and presents that I now look. The things that my child can process, understand and enjoy.
Whoever you are, wherever you may be, make Christmas your own. And to anyone feeling the cold sting of loss at this time of year, you’re not alone. Many people smile through it. As will I. But many will be holding an empty space in their heart for someone they long to, but won’t see this Christmas season. Warm your heart knowing you’re amongst friends as you read this.
Tell us about your christmas traditions and if they are different due to an impairment. Are you dealing with grief this christmas? How do you deal with these feelings? Share your experiences now.