Tuesday 17 December 2019

The Empty Chair...

This Christmas dinner, like the 5 before it, we will have an empty chair at our table. It's a chair that shouldn't be empty. A chair where there should be laughter, and smiles.

The empty chair is more important than anything else in the room. It represents the space in our lives, the hole we all navigate around every day. It can't be ignored, and as we go through our Christmas preparations, we plan and we buy, decorate and bake, the empty chair becomes more important.

At first it is quiet, sitting, watching. You catch it out of the corner of your eye, and you remember everything you try so hard to put to one side.

The chair gets bigger and more unavoidable as December progresses, until that innocuous piece of furniture is the loudest thing in the house. It becomes the only thing you can see when you look into the room.

A room recreated in LEGO, with a lit up fireplace, Christmas tree with presents and an empty chair.

It shouts at you and insists you don't keep walking by. It demands attention and you have to keep going, working around it. You fool yourself that you will be able to ignore it and carry on, even when the chair fills the room and you have to squeeze past it in order to accomplish anything.

At times it almost overwhelms you. The pressure and stress of trying to enjoy Christmas and do what you always felt you were meant to hangs on your shoulders and pulls you down. How can it ever be fun again when you have an empty chair?

How can you laugh, and smile, and take joy from everything around you, when the chair is watching? How can you dance, and sing? Pull crackers and open presents, how can you, without guilt, take joy in that momentary childlike excitement?

The chair isn't empty. It's grown to such size because it holds so much. It is full of precious memories and lost hopes. They become so great that they spill from the chair and fill every moment of your world.

Every shopping trip, every bus ride, every time you wash a dish or go on social media, the chair creeps into your mind. Films and adverts, books, cards and baubles. They all remind you of your empty chair.

Eventually your strength is gone and you can't pretend to ignore it any more. You have no choice but to face your chair. You look, properly, and you see what you dreaded.  You see the Christmas that cannot be. You see a future that didn't happen, and a lifetime that could have been so different. You see an adult taking life and running with it... and it crushes you to think that it will never be real.

As the tears flow, the chair is less huge, and less scary. You see memories of times past. Happier times when it was all so much easier. When you had so much innocence, and could never begin to understand how precious that was.

You remember pulling crackers, and the jokes. The fabulous turkey that cost far too much and took all day to cook. The real holly centrepiece that stabbed everyone who reached past it. The year the Yorkshire pudding was biscuit, and that time you discovered the carrots still in the saucepan on Boxing Day. The first time you let your children have a drop of wine with dinner, and their wide eyes at the sight of a flaming Christmas pudding.

You remember it all, as a jumbled mess of Christmas magic, and through damp eyes you look down at the empty chair, and you smile.

The chair will defeat you again, and it will never be an ordinary chair, but for now at least, you remember why it's good that it's there. Because of the huge quantity of love it holds.

Time and love The Empty Chair

Christmas time is especially hard for many people, for many reasons. You are never alone.

The Samaritans are there 24 hours a day for anyone who needs to talk or is struggling - 116123

If you are younger or worried about a young person then you may be happier to contact Papyrus UK - Prevention Of Young Suicide 0800 068 41 41

If your family has lost a child, The Compassionate Friends offer support, advice and forums where you can find someone like you to talk to.

If you are supporting a bereaved child, Winston's Wish have a helpline and online advice and support.

From all of us here at The Brick Castle. May your Christmas be the best it can be.


  1. Words are so powerful for so many reasons. Thinking of you all over the Christmas holidays.

  2. Oh, tears on my cheeks. Such an emotional post, which I know many will relate to. Huge hugs to you all this and every Christmas, and all those other special and everyday times too x

  3. I can relate to every word of this Jenny. That empty chair hits me hard, especially at this time of year but it’s also true that when I stop and look at it, it hurts immensely but it also becomes less huge. Sending love to you all at this time of year especially and hope that the festive season will be as gentle as it can be x

  4. Sending so much love and hugs. It is so hard all year round, but this time of year will be especially difficult. All my love, always x

  5. Such powerful words, sending you all lots of love xx

  6. Oh Jenny. Such beautiful words as always. Sending love and light from our house to yours. X

  7. Oh Jenny. Sending love and strength to you all x


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