'Surjoying' the first Christmas without Mum
My experience of our first Christmas without Lauren inspired me to create a word, because it didn't feel like there was one in existence to accurately describe the feeling or experience of a Christmas in this new version of our lives.
'Surjoying' - A compound word or portmanteau combining the words surviving and enjoying. It's best used to describe a time that feels enjoyable, whilst also being difficult and leaving you feeling like you had to survive to get through.
I'm not sure my new word will ever make it into the dictionary, but, it feels like a fitting way to describe our first Christmas without Lauren. Here's how we got through and some of the highlights of the last week.
Recreating Mum's Christmas Without Mum...
In truth and in hindsight I feel as though the build up to Christmas was much harder than the event itself. Lauren was the Queen of Christmas in our household and she had a way of making sure that every year, each Christmas was better than the last. We were fortunate enough that we had the knowledge that Lauren's time would be limited and so we treated each celebration like the last. Which meant that last year, Lauren was able to give me the blueprint for a perfect Christmas. So, albeit with a fair amount of self imposed pressure I set out to try and recreate that perfect Christmas for Molly, filled with the traditions that her Mum was trying to ignite and one that would at the very least be enjoyable for my little super hero. These traditions included a Christmas Eve box, video message from the North Pole, a trip to see Father Christmas, a visit to the panto and time spent with family.
I'd decided early on that Christmas would be spent with Lauren's immediate family, I knew it was going to be as tough for them as it was for me and that Molly would lift all of our spirits and get us through. We'd originally planned to go to Norfolk over Christmas, but this among other things were impacted by 'tier 4' and our plans were adjusted last minute.
However, due to rules around creating social bubbles for those living as a solo parent, I was still able to spend this Christmas with Lauren's family, we were still able to tick the boxes on all of the traditions mentioned before, including a visit to see Father Christmas (just before tier 4 restrictions), streaming the Sevenoaks Panto (Jack and the Two Metre Beanstalk) and getting a video message from Effie the Elf (courtesy of Once Upon a Wish Events).
Moments of 'Surjoyment'
If you swipe through the pictures below, you'll see that we've had so many moments over the last month, in the build up and over Christmas where we've been able to smile, have fun and give Molly just as special a Christmas as she'd have normally had.
For me, these moments don't feel the same as they used to though. I'm smiling, but something doesn't quite feel right and without wanting to undersell it, the only thing I can liken it to (just on a much more intense scale) is that feeling you get when you leave the house and you know you've forgotten something, but you can't quite put your finger on what it is. It doesn't stop you from carrying on and doing what you were doing, but it's always in the back of your mind and sometimes it's something that actually makes you feel completely different like your watch or earrings. Again, I'm not for a second saying the experience of widowhood is anything like forgetting to wear your watch, but it's the only niggling feeling that I can think of that stays with you the whole time regardless of what you're doing.
This is where 'Surjoyment' comes in, weaved among moments of reflection, toasts for our loved ones, and other times that bring you're mood down, I found that I actually enjoyed Christmas, it was good. Not perfect, because there was such a huge part of our life missing, but, it was good none the less. So, by leaning in to the hurt, knowing that these times will be difficult and that it's going to take all of my strength to keep it together, as opposed to avoiding them like the plague, I'm finding it unlocks the opportunity to experience joy in my life still and that I survive. 'Surjoyment' in full action.
I'm learning that I'm able to face up to the challenge when needed
It's so true that your don't know how strong you are until that strength is tested. My experience of widowhood so far is one that is filled with dread, despair and worry that the future is going to be hard. A future where I can't see me being in control and I don't have a plan for how to make life work again. But it is also an experience where each time my strength has been tested and I've needed to keep it together, I've been able to and survived. As mentioned earlier hindsight is teaching me that actually the build up is tending to be harder than the events themselves and that if I throw myself into the hard times, I might still get moments of joy too.
I hope that regardless of your circumstances and all of the events going on in the world at the moment you've managed to find moments of joy this Christmas.
It's not at all Christmassy, but here's a song I found a couple of months ago, it explains the above really well and reminds me that even though it's hard and I have plenty of times filled with darkness, I am able to weather the storm and answer the challenges.
Thanks for reading and being a part of our journey!