When it comes to celebrating your first Christmas without our people, the first question we often ask ourselves is: how? How on earth do I celebrate a Christmas without my loved one here? I wish I had answers, but our first Christmas without mum was poised and careful like that of a well rehearsed performance.
I think that the only advice I have to give is to get through your first Christmas by prioritising yourself and following exactly what you need to do.
The day I went to the cinema, I had been piecing myself together from a particularly grief-heavy morning. I was writing in my journal “no one seems to care about Christmas being special anymore.” My heart hurt for the first Christmas build up I had been spending without my family around me.
I decided to walk to the cinema to escape for a while; to have my eyes fixed on a big screen far away from the rain torturing my city.
Usually grief is a concept pushed to the edges of Christmas along with dried out Christmas tree needles and discarded wrapping paper. I had heard of A Boy Called Christmas through flashes on screens in adverts. I thought “boy and mouse; what could go wrong?” Immediately, my heart sank as I discovered the children had lost their mother.
Three children in this film find themselves in a similar predicament to the one we might have all found ourselves in for the first Christmas. They don’t have a tree, they don’t want presents, and their love for Christmas has been pinned into “maybe next year”.
Their Aunt Ruth is asked to look after the children on Christmas Eve by their Dad, and she asks how they are all doing. The little boy replies “my heart is broken, but all the pieces still love my mum.”
Great. I thought I had been done crying for the day, but with one sentence I looked internally at my own heart shining with love for the person who made Christmas Christmas.
Ruth tells them a story about a boy who lost his mum too; but she spoke about Christmas all the time. In his world, Christmas does not exist; it is a hope, a fantasy, a dream that felt very far away from the depths of his winter. I think we might know how he feels a little bit.
Throughout the film, the children interject Ruth’s story about Nikolas, asking her if characters were going to die, whether Nikolas would see his father again; behaviours those who have been violently shaken to the reality of loss know all-to-well. The children say “we couldn’t handle that at all”, but Ruth replies “you can handle anything because you have already handled everything.” My gentle heart quivered with the depth of the words. It was almost as if I had chosen this film for this reason; to hear those sweet words.
Grief at Christmas is a hard and arduous task. There is no escape from memories, music or representations of a picture perfect family laughing around a Christmas table. This film shows the reality of what grief can be like at Christmas. Our first Christmas was devoid of presents, with sadness amongst the attempt of enjoyment.
What this film does wonderfully, is that it does not pretend that children or young people do not know about grief. It does not pretend that this is too touchy of a subject to speak about. Instead, this film tackles head on the hopelessness of The First Christmas.
Yet, of course, this is a Christmas film, and the end is full of magic which bitterly made me wish I would have my own happy ending. In itself, through seeing grief being laid out on the screen with all the beauty this film offered, I feel like some of the Christmas magic was returned to me.
I had reached a point where I felt like people must be tired of hearing about my sad heart at this time of year. I thought my grief had a “sell by date” and that now I had spoken about it I had to be okay.
But the pain is real, the pain is raw. And I don’t mind feeling it, because after all; “Grief is the price we pay for love, and it is worth it a million times over.”
Much love to you,