I never really look forward to Christmas and this year particularly was never going to be good. With my mother's death still leaving a raw wound, and a couple of bouts of illness hitting me in late November, I was immersed in gloom, unable to plan ahead, and leaving present-buying and putting up decorations till the last minute. Then a Twitter friend reminded me of a conversation we'd had back in September - that grief is at its worst after about three months, and for both of us, that was lining up with Christmas - and things started to slot into place. Sometimes understanding what is wrong is halfway to curing it.
There were changes this year. Once my parents came over every Christmas day but it recent years that wasn't possible due to my mum's mobility problems so we'd have a lazy morning and visit them during the afternoon. This year my dad came over to ours, and our day had to fit round him - the times he likes to eat, actually cooking full Christmas dinner, not watching anything violent or noisy (or those nude scenes from Love, Actually) on TV. It was an odd combination of sad and boring.
A happier change was passing on a family tradition to the next generation. When they were younger, our daughters had The Night Before Christmas read to them just before bedtime on Christmas Eve, but this year we all went to the eldest's to hear it read to my grandson. He fidgeted a bit, but hopefully will grow to love it.
There's so much pressure though to feel Christmas must be happy and fun-filled for every minute, and obviously in my circumstances it wasn't really possible. There were a lot of tensions and emotional moments, and I sometimes felt like all my small sadnesses were joining themselves up to make a huge overwhelming wave.
There have fortunately been good moments this Christmas. There's a massive amount of fun to be had just watching and playing with my grandson, but perhaps the best thing was having our youngest daughter home for the whole week, which was really special as since she left home in February we've only seen her for a couple of days here and there. Somehow she took me out of myself, changed my focus and I now feel like I've turned a corner, and the new year looks welcoming in a way I wouldn't have believed possible in the run up to Christmas.
This year the (rather pathetic) decorations will come down early - partly because I still don't really feel jolly enough to leave them up till Twelfth Night, but also because I'm impatient to get on with next year.