I used to love Christmas. The carols, nativities, cards, presents, fetes, special family get-togethers, Father Christmas and yes, even the glitter.
Our daughter Ruth loved it twenty times more. She nagged from mid-November to put the tree up. It became a family tradition that she and her brother would choose a new bauble for the tree each year from the amazing display at our local garden centre. Our favourite bauble was one her best friend Lois gave her of a glass angel playing the flute.
Ruth sang carols around the house and sang and played her flute so many times in concerts in the month leading up to Christmas day that she often struggled to be up for school the next day.
In her late teens she wore silly headgear on her way to college, making the locals smile. She spent hours wrapping her pound shop gifts so they looked a million dollars and just lapped up every moment of it.
One Christmas 11 years ago wasn’t quite as magical. That year Ruth was in a psychiatric hospital, seriously unwell as a result of her borderline personality disorder. I was unable to do anything to help her.
I remember at the time looking at her angel bauble and sensing with tears that the bauble was all we would have of her next Christmas. Sadly I was right.
Our beautiful, compassionate and delightful daughter was hospitalised in 2003 during her first year at university. We now know her mental health problems had started in her early teens after a traumatic incident. Hiding the trauma had caused her even more pain.
Eventually she had to stop her university course as she was experiencing severe emotional problems. She attempted to take her own life multiple times, was sectioned repeatedly and was in and out of hospital.
After a couple of years of treatment, Ruth blocked all contact with her family and friends. It was terrifying. A year later a police officer was at our door telling us Ruth had taken her own life. Sadly, this was news that felt inevitable.
I was numb when I heard. Although I was expecting it, it was like watching it all happen to someone else.
Bereavement is tough. All the “happy times” that have followed Ruth’s death are tinged with a deep sadness for me.
In the early days, talking to whoever would listen helped me cope. Slowly I was more discerning about who I spoke to and when. Ruth’s dad didn’t grieve as I did and that was really difficult for us both. Peer support groups, a good GP, medication and some one on one counselling has really helped me through. But Christmas, nor any day for that matter, will ever be the same without Ruth in our lives.
Since Ruth died, doing craft has slowly become an important part of looking after myself.
When I am absorbed in playing and creating it can distract me from the distress I still experience at times. Myself and another bereaved mum have started running get togethers locally for bereaved parents with a craft focus.
We held a Christmas Crafternoon last weekend – something that wouldn’t have been possible for me even eight years after Ruth’s death. But ten years on it has given me a positive focus for a time of year I really don’t enjoy.
Mind helped a lot in the early days after Ruth was diagnosed as we struggled to understand what her diagnosis meant and the rules around sectioning. I also attended a local Mind support group for a while when Ruth was ill.
Running a Crafternoon has really helped me this year because I’ve done something useful; making my Christmas cards and decorations, which takes the pressure off a bit.
But I’ve also done something to say thanks to Mind for all they did to help me, before and after Ruth’s death.
If you'd like to run your own Crafternoon this Christmas sign up for a free guide here.