Friday, December 16, 2011

Helpful hints

Just a little over a week to go until Christmas, but right now I'm focusing on this Sunday, because we're having a small gathering then to "unveil" Harvey's plaque.  Of course it isn't really an unveiling, more of an unplasticking, because we'll peel back a piece of black plastic. I keep making lists of all the things I need to do before then, in case I forget something vital. Unfortunately the forecast isn't good, but I'm hoping it will just be showers and not settled rain. I think I'll feel both better and worse when it's over - I'm pleased to have the plaque completed, but it also feels like the last thing I can do for him; after that, there's nothing for it but just to carry on alone, through Christmas and beyond.
           It's been, well, interesting over the last week or so, as the cards have started to arrive and the get-togethers have got under way. In a spirit of pure helpfulness (what else?) I thought it would be good to set down a few insider's hints on how and how not to deal with people like me at this time of year.

1. Cards require more thought than usual. Try not to send your bereaved friends and relations Christmas cards that are overly cheerful and upbeat. Jolly Santas etc. should be avoided in favour of something a little more soothing - doves or other birds are good. 

2. Cards that feature messages urging the recipient to have a "merry", "jolly" or "wonderful" Christmas/holiday/festive season/New Year, when that is the last thing they'll be doing, will not go down well. A simple "Season's Greetings" is fine. Writing something inside that shows you've remembered what's happened since last Christmas, and know merriness is off this year, will be greatly appreciated.

3. At seasonal gatherings, try not to wax too eloquent about the happy holiday you're about to have with your partner. On the other hand, don't go in for arch complaints about having your partner around either. Doing either of these things will just hammer home the fact of partnerlessness.

4. Don't ask the bereaved person what he/she is doing at Christmas unless you really want to know. And don't make vague noises along the lines of "must have you round some time after Christmas" (often followed by "Of course we're away for two weeks, but maybe after that...") If you really do want and intend to have them round, come up with an actual day/night they can put in their (often alarmingly blank) post-Christmas diaries - the details can be sorted out later.

5. Please don't try to buck the person up by pointing out that there are many worse off than them, and/or helping some of these people out would be a great way to take their minds off themselves and their own troubles. They probably won't tell you to sod off, but they will want to.


  1. I hope the friends who are gathering with you on Sunday will support you through this time, Anne. I'm sure they will.
    Best wishes to you.

  2. P.S. - I loved "The Broken Book", although I found it very sad. Thanks for your review, which prompted me to buy it.

  3. Thinking of you tomorrow (Sunday) Anne and wishing you the gentlest navigation over this next week or so.

  4. Anne,
    Where do you review books?
    I'd like to read what you think of Broken Book. I've just brought it for a friend who's going to lend it back to me once she's devoured it. BTW - oozing empathy and thoughts through the ether over this next wee while - similar stuff going on here for me and mine - 4 months today my daling Mama moved on and we're now nursing my heartbroken 91 yr old Daddio. Kia kaha Anne
    P.S Thanx for your advice.

  5. Thanks for accepting my comment Anne. By way of explanation - my name is actually Pamela - I'm a teacher in Nelson and my pseudnym is my classroom name I originally created a Google a/c with when we were setting up a school blog.
    Regards, Pamela.

  6. Hi Pamela, lovely to hear from you. I review for the Sunday Star-Times, Listener, New Zealand Books and Nine to Noon on National Radio. If you go to my earlier post "Two Books", you'll see a long quote from my Farrell review.