I am a Writer for ‘The Parkinson’s Experience’ global community.
For me, this has been a landmark year. With the high points including the many fun gatherings with family and friends, making wonderful new friends, a move to focusing on developing my writing career, taking up new study, achieving a long sought diagnosis for my chronic health illness, becoming a member of a team who support those affected by Parkinson’s Disease and being invited to be a Columnist for them, getting to know my local community a little more, the ongoing building of my Counselling and Psychotherapy business, the ongoing development of my home and the enjoyment of seeing the achievements and progress of my family.
The more difficult aspects of my year have included getting diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease which, although long known to me, nonetheless is tough to face when you have it formally confirmed, experiencing a continued deterioration in health, watching loved ones struggle with their own health problems, relationship difficulties and personal issues.
This time of year sees many in society ease down into the joyful Christian and Pagan festive season of Christmas and of Winter Solstice. A time to reflect on our values, on our achievements and on our loved ones; family, friends and community. People from other traditions also join us by holding family gatherings, reflecting over the closing year and the dawn of the New Year.
Each year we wonder at what the New Year will herald and, at the end of each year, we reflect over the unexpected highs and lows. This is all played out against the backdrop of the drama and trauma that happens around the world and within our own societies and communities.
As we busy ourselves with gift buying, tree decorating, food preparing, wonderful community events and the making of fun new memories, many of us will also be feeling the pain caused by the absence of loved ones who are no longer with us. While our hearts will be filled with the joy of treasured memories that make us smile and the fun of creating new memories, our tears are on standby as we feel the immeasurable gap caused by the absent voices, faces and characters of those who brought something so special into our lives, simply by being there. The festive season can re-open the pain of grief and that can be very hard.
I believe that when we lose a loved one, we are changed by that loss. In some ways, the person we were dies along with the loved one we have lost; for the loss changes us. In some way, we are different after each loss. The person we become is a new version of who we had been before. The life of our loved one influences who we are and so the death of our loved one influences who we go on to be.
This idea suggests that change is, therefore, an inevitable part of losing a loved one. The key is to find a way to think of each loss as the ‘passing on of the baton’; meaning to find the ‘gift’ within each loss. Your loved one has left you with a gift. The key is to recognise that and to use that gift as a part of your new life after loss.
What do I mean by ‘gift’? Well, for example, when you think of the person you have lost, you may find yourself smiling at a treasured memory. That smile is a gift. You may be feeling troubled by something and, when you think of your lost loved one, you may get a sense of the advice they would have given you. That sense of knowing is a gift. You may have been inspired by the actions of your departed loved one and you may choose to live better, or do better things, as a result. Their inspiration is a gift. Your departed loved one may have been a kind person or someone who did things for the benefit of others. You may reflect on this and become a kinder person yourself. Their humanity is a gift. Your loved one, now gone, may have been a wealth of knowledge on a particular subject or on many things. That knowledge may have been shared with you during their life. That knowledge is a gift. Your lost loved one may have been funny, the joker of the group, the one who made you chuckle time and again. When you need to, you can remember their humour and laugh. Their laughter is a gift and so on…
You become the custodian of the parts of your loved one that you choose to carry on into your own life. You receive these gifts and they will become part of the new version of you, that you become through the loss of your loved one. You will be changed. You will find that there is a continuing bond between you and the person who has passed away. In this way, your loved one is ever with you.
You will see the world through your own eyes and you will see the world through theirs. You will be able to recognise the opportunity to experience new things in your life, that your loved one has not been able to experience, and so you may value each experience more than ever before. You will be enriched, as a result.
Looking at loss in this way, offers another opportunity. What ‘gifts’ would you like to one day leave your own loved ones, when your time comes to pass on? In this context, the expression ‘to pass on’ is enriched with new meaning. This is about passing on something of value to those you love; aspects of yourself that you can share with those close to you. What better time to consider these ‘gifts’, than in the festive season where, perhaps, we focus too much on the giving of material, commercial gifts.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that reads and follows my Blog, those who follow me on Facebook, Instagram (find me at: deangparsons) and Twitter (find me: @deanparsonsUK) and to thank all those who support, access or commission my services. I love my work and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve others and to share my thoughts and interests through Social Media.
I would also like to thank the team at The Parkinson’s Experience for inspiring me and welcoming me to became a team member of this wonderful, global project and community. I thank them also for the opportunity of writing a weekly column for our global community web site.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Peaceful New Year and I send good wishes to those of other faiths and beliefs, as well as those who practice no specific faith.
My only hope is that we can all find it in our hearts to simply be kind to each and every person; irrespective of their faith or lifestyle. Treating each other kindly is surely the purest form of good.