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A source of Christmas comfort

How a shopping trip and a spontaneous social media post became a source of Christmas comfort to many ...

As funeral directors are only too acutely aware, many bereaved people find Christmas a painful time.

Apart from the loneliness the season can bring, the ubiquitous media images of happy families and togetherness emphasise loss.

Triggers for that sense of sadness seem to be everywhere and, for Rachael Prior, the trigger was a red jumper in a Marks and Spencer’s menswear department.

It brought to mind her father who died 10 years ago, just because it was the sort of present he loved and she decided to share her thoughts.

She tweeted: “Nowhere and no time do I miss my dad more acutely than in the men’s department of M&S at Christmas.

The post seemed to strike a chord with thousands of people and the response was overwhelming.

The thread was shared all over the world and in just one day there were more than 1,000 retweets, 11,000 likes and 1,300 more followers.

People responded by describing triggers that evoked their lost loved ones and cited sights, sounds, smells and tastes.

Old Spice aftershave, brittle toffee, tankards, tobacco, roast chicken aromas and ironing, leaf tea, Bourbon biscuits and advocaat – all were listed: “When my Dad passed (four years ago, now), I took possession of his aftershave (Old Spice). The bottle's long-since finished, but I won't throw it away.”

Others found other reminders: “My mum, I think, still exists in the Christmas sweets section of Lake land in Cambridge,” shared one contributor.

“Dad. 4 years- cancer. I keep his pen knife in my paintbox to sharpen my pencils and his fire gauntlet by my stove. When I put in on it’s like I’m holding his hand.”

Other people wrote about continuing Christmas traditions such as reading The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve and a woman from Chicago shared a shot of her tattoo, which reads 'I love you' in her father’s handwriting and is the last thing he said to her.

Singer Alison Moyet joined in, author JK Rowling commented and TV personality James Corden encouraged his followers to read the thread: "It will warm your heart. Beautiful,” he tweeted.

And every contributor seemed to find some comfort in the shared experience: “I thought I was the only one,” wrote one.

The thread offered comfort in a shared experience, which is something councillors and psychologists would recommend, as almost everyone can connect to the loss of a loved one.

And ironically, considering that it was a High Street store that prompted the initial tweet, the timbre of the thread offered the spirit of the season that so many  retailers aim for over at this time of year.

“What an absolutely beautiful thread,” read one tweet. “More connected and emotionally impactful than any high street store Christmas advert could ever hope to be.”

To read the thread, go to: https://twitter.com/orachaelo/status/929397011429974016

This is a preview of a feature article.

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