The granite sphere is back unexpectedly. The concrete blackness of shock has encased me, it’s the day before Christmas Eve.

The badness has been around for a while, hounding me, plaguing me, hiding in my shadow. It would pop up to say hello when I didn’t know it was there. It played games with me, darting behind trees, laughing, teasing, just to ambush me as I walked by.

But it’s not hiding now, it’s out, it’s here, in non glorious mono colour, in my room, in my body. It’s on every breath and the enormity of what I’ve persisted in calling ‘the weekend’ has hit like a tsunami.

In it’s wake I lie crushed and terryifyed. The weight of reality seems to make the air itself heavy and painful.

At this moment I can’t understand how I’ll get through the day let alone the weekend. And somewhere behind it all I can hear the echoes of my widowed friends screaming at me ‘baby steps’.

Yesterday through my drunken wrapping up session I’d begun to regret my plans for a cut off Christmas, seeing no one, not even parents.

I missed her, who I used to be, fussing about, buying too much, wrapping with too much precision, worried I hadn’t got enough bows, and most importantly, loving their faces when they opened whatever the package containined. I always felt satisfied if I’d reduced someone (usually my Mum) to tears with a gift. A job well done.

But this year I don’t need gifts to make them cry. They cry because they can’t fix it, and I cry because I can’t show them my pain.

So in addition to the fundamental grief there is yet another loss, of her, of us, of our traditions, of our togetherness, of our Christmases.

Our mess of grief all tangled up and confused, knotted darkness, strung up with no purpose.

Layers upon layers of grief. Un wrapping it all slowly but never getting to a gift. Unless the grief itself is the gift? A permanent presence, an anchor to love, a pain that etches itself into you, weaves through and around until it’s part of you at your very heart. An enfolding force, a guide, a teacher.

And the memories dance and twirl around you in never ending spirals, fractals of our identity, a graceful frond to forever, patterns of spirit surround us.

Images of my childhood, her Christmases and the groundwork in place for who I’d become, and our Christmases, new and negotiated, with visits, plans and dreams, and our sons Christmases , stockings and Santa and me eating carrots, biting chunks out of apples and leaving floury footprints on the patio. At five in the morning when binbags rustled louder than when I packed them and the coldness tingled with anticipation.

And now

And a new artificial tree for my artificial life and the unravelling of the innocence. We will always watch the Polar Express last thing on Christmas Eve. I bought it for our son when he was train obsessed and always wept over it’s beauty, it’s symbolism of rites of passage, of growing up, of magic, of love.

He would raise an eyebrow over my sentimentality but he adored the spirit too and I know that from the things he said, from the stories we shared and from his reaction to the tiny plaster of paris Santa we found when looking through his mum’s possessions.

And I know where the Santa is now, and I know what it all means.

And we will create new traditions.

But at the weekend they’ll all be there around me whether or not they are seen.

The little girl I used to be,

The wife and mother who I became,

and the woman I’m becoming

Just me and our son, yet surrounded by all my family. The relatives now and then, those I knew as a child for just a few years, those who are still here for me now, who helped to form me, who support me by trusting me to find my own way and the spirit and love of those who hold me close even when they can’t.

And us, in everything, in every fleck of glitter and every tiny light, ineffable, constant, unknowable yet certain.

And at the centre of it all, our son, my beacon, my promise, still a child – but shifting, enjoying feeling older, easing himself into the next phase, often just one beat ahead but I still keep up. Always behind him, always around him. Responding, guiding, trusting.

Finding his way through the grief, through the pain. Held in the love that defines us.

Holding his hand as we creep through our morning to carefully unwrap what we’ve been given, to understand the gift and use it. Through the overwhelming darkness to find what is waiting. In the light of the dawn all existence fades to a being with my soul. Eventually all things merge into One, and our love runs through it.

To hold tight, to hold on to each other. To find what we need, to become who we need to be.

This moment

This pain

This joy

This agony

This love

The bell still rings