I feel like I often start my Me and Mine posts by saying that this month has been a difficult one. I guess that’s the reality of life as a bereaved family though – the rollercoaster ride of living with grief and the ache of Jessica’s absence from key moments in our family life. December is a difficult month though. We miss Jessica all the time, but Christmas is full of memories of happy times with her, and the longing for her feels a little more acute at this time of year.
Our way of coping with Christmas is to do things differently to the way we used to when Jessica was here and this year, that involved us going away to Coombe Mill again. The change of scenery helps make Christmas feel a little more bearable and I love being able to get outside for a walk and to visit the animals on the farm. This year’s visit was a little different from our previous ones – it was much quieter and the feed run only took place on our last full day as Farmer Emma and Farmer Anya were self-isolating due to Covid. Although we missed starting the day with the feed run each day, we were still able to enjoy our walks around the farm. It was good just to be away in our own family bubble without the pressure of having to be festive and Christmassy for others.
We’ve learned to allow space for our grief during the festive season and to make sure we give Jessica time and attention too. Re-framing grief as being our time to focus on Jessica often helps make it easier to ride the storm when it comes, especially when those storms can be anticipated. The end of December is one of those times. This time four years ago, we were in PICU with Jessica, following her Fontan surgery on 28 December. She’d just come off the ventilator on New Year’s Eve and was awake to see in the new year with us. One of the nurses brought over a laptop so she could see the new year fireworks over the London Eye. I remember how full of joy we were to be seeing in the new year on the other side of the Fontan, and the hope that we had for the future. It seems so cruel that our hopes were shattered just a few months later.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever regain a sense of hope on seeing in a new year again. The last few years have certainly been a lesson in how life can change in the blink of an eye. This last year has been another rollercoaster with the Covid pandemic. I’m very thankful that we did get to go away this Christmas – it was looking quite uncertain for a while. As for January, well, who knows what it will bring? Covid cases are high once again although thankfully Omicron seems to be a milder variant so far. I’m hoping that we won’t have a repeat of last January with lockdowns and home-schooling, but we’ll just have to take things as they come.
For now though, I’m thankful that we’ve been able to enjoy some time with family and friends over the last month, and for the moments of quality family time that we’ve been able to enjoy over the festive period. As we move forward into the new year, we’ll carry Jessica into it with us once more. She’ll always be part of our family and always with us in our hearts.