When December is not 'The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...'

This blog post is not a typical IzzyBee post, however my dad had a part to play in IzzyBee's creation, although he didn't know it.  For many people this time of year can be difficult and they may struggle to ask for help.  Whether you celebrate at this time of year or not - if you're struggling when everyone else seems to be feeling jolly, things can seem quite bleak and you can be left feeling quite depleted.

I've never been one to get too hung up on dates.... but its almost impossible not to remember events that happened around this time two years ago.  When others were feeling merry.... I was not.  And even now when I try to push away those reminders, hearing seasonal music and seeing twinkly lights bring back that 'pit of my stomach' feeling.  They bring back memories of walks around dark corridors softly lit by fairy lights and emergency exit signs, that disinfectant smell, night time visits in stuffy heated rooms when everything is quiet apart from machines quietly beeping. Hundreds more snapshots in time firmly lodged in my mind that shape and change the person you are, and guide the things you will go on to do.

Maybe this time of year brings back different memories of difficult times for you.... two years on and I was hoping this time around it would be easier - and keeping so busy this last few weeks has pushed things to the back of my mind.  But just as quickly they can be there again in a flash.  Just a few weeks time ago, I was sat snuggled up at home with my family watching a film.  Opening scene, popcorn ready and the first few bars of one of my dads favourite songs blasted out.  Hot salty tears, family hugs and a snotty cry later I pulled myself together to watch the film through - but it had just hit me out of the blue - and during December those moments seem to come a little more often.

So what helps?  If you know that those feelings are going to present themselves what can you do?  Here's what helps me:

1. If you feel like crying - do it.  I have a serious aversion to public crying... and if I've tried to contain the tears at home, then they always come out when its LEAST convenient.  In the supermarket aisle or post office queue.

2. Being gentle with myself.  Sometimes its impossible not to be busy.... but try to schedule some time inbetween to relax.  Even if its sitting in the quiet with a cup of tea and some soothing music.  Taking a bath.  Going for a walk or run helps.

3. Spend time with family and friends.  This is one I need to tell myself more often.  Even when the tendency is there to be on my own, I know that spending time with others is always helpful.

4. Be gentle with myself.  Did I say that already?! I feel like I should repeat it again though... if I'm feeling tired emotionally I'm more likely to snap in stressful situations.

5. Ask for help if you need it.  Another one that I struggle with - but realising you can't do it all - especially when feeling fragile - is important.

This time 2 years ago I was preparing myself to say my final goodbyes.  This time in 2017 I'm spending the evening with family quietly.... tomorrow my sister and I are taking my mum out for the day to do some things she enjoys and to spend some time together.  Building my list of 'things that help' I feel like I'm strengthening myself internally... not to forget, not to get rid of these feelings, but learning to deal with them differently.

If you're struggling with anything at this time of year... find someone to talk to.  Samaritans site is here, and for anyone who wants to donate, or just some further information - the wonderful St Margarets Hospice who helped my dad (and all the family) among thousands of other patients is here
Cruse give some really helpful advice on how to help friends or family who are grieving such as getting in touch by phone, letter (or even the old fashioned way in person!).  Encourage the person to talk, being aware that grief can take a long time.