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Christmas is bittersweet after my mum died – here's how I make it special

Louse Pentland in black looking chic
Louise is HELLO!'s new columnist

It’s official, we are living and breathing the most wonderful time of the year… I think. How are you feeling at the moment?

As you might know from my November column (thank you for all the love on that by the way, I'm still floating about it all), I do truly love the holiday season.

I’m 70% Christmas Cheer, 20% haggard rushing around mess (aren’t we all!) and 10% reflective.

Louise Pentland in front of a Christmas tree in Westminster Abbery
Louise makes sure to make December magical

Although I love the endless stream of festive joy, I do take time in December to think about something quite sombre - the Mum-shaped hole in my life. My darling mother, Jane, passed away on December 20th 1992 and as you’d imagine, I think of her a lot at Christmas.

She died from cancer, and I miss her dearly. For many years I allowed myself to sink pretty low on and around her anniversary. I’d either visit her grave and cry or feel totally flat at home, wishing she was here.

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Seven years ago though, something pretty wild happened. I completely changed my mindset. Instead of feeling deeply miserable, I turned it into feeling deeply grateful and ‘Dead Mum Day’ began. Bear with me, I know this sounds unhinged.

Celebrating Dead Mum Day

With a little nudge from Liam, my fiancé, I stopped letting the day control me and decided to control it instead. Mum’s life is to be celebrated and our lives are to be celebrated, so instead of wallowing in self-pity, I dug deep for an attitude of gratitude.

 READ: How to practice gratitude for a happier life: an expert's guide

I’m grateful to have had such a loving mother. I’m grateful I now get to be a loving mother. I’m grateful to be living! Twee as it sounds, every day is a chance to live my ‘best life’ and I’m going to take that.

Family at a Christmas grotto
Louise has been having lots of magical moments this December

We started calling it ‘Dead Mum Day’ as a bit of dark humour, but it stuck. Dead Mum Day now is filled with all the best things. It’s like a party day! We’ve had fabulous trips out, amazing meals, visited friends far and wide and this year will be no exception, with a visit to Lapland UK.

Even in the bleakest of times, you have the power and permission to change your mindset for the better. Certainly, things can hurt but you can choose to change the narrative and make the best of something. I believe, the greatest way you can honour someone you’ve lost is by living a full and happy life.

 RELATED: What therapists want you to know about grief

Speaking of living a happy life, I’ve had some pretty joyful things happen these past few weeks that I want to share here.

My magic moments

Firstly, the traditional magic moments. Pearl, my youngest daughter, was a shepherd in her nativity and whilst I’m not sure she fully understood why she was wearing sewn up tea towels as a dress, she belted out 'Away In A Manger' with gusto. She’s also had a lovely visit to Father Christmas where she told him she’d like "a robot that does everything I tell it to" (I can relate to this robot! Ha!), rather than the things she’d told me a few weeks back – argh!

Louise Pentland in front of Christmas tree
Louise makes Christmas magical for her daughters

Darcy, my eldest, has spent December revising her Christmas list too. Gone are the days of keeping her happy with toys and selection boxes, I’ve now entered the teen space, which is Glossier, Lululemon and iPads- I’m sure at 12 I only wanted a Tamagotchi! Anyone remember them or am I really showing my age now?

 READ: Why don't I feel festive this year? Here's how to cure Christmas 'disconnect'

As I’ve gotten older and (crosses fingers) wiser, something I have loved doing is supporting charities that mean a lot for me. After my Mum passed away and my own life took a rather terrible turn (a story for another day) I’m extremely passionate about working with children’s charities.

Blonde lady holding drink
Louise is making the most of magical moments

Working with children's charities

I have loved being the NSPCC’s Ambassador for Childhood, and it’s been wonderful to work with Children In Need. Selling charity baubles with Action for Children was amazing and a charity I am nothing short of being honoured to be involved with has been The Royal Foundation’s Centre for Early Childhood, starting off with a really inspiring night at the Shaping Us Campaign launch back in January.

This event not only opened my eyes to the work The Princess of Wales is doing, but also blew my fabulous publicist’s mind because I wore a BRGHT PINK TROUSER SUIT.

I digress. I promise I’m going somewhere with this!

So, what does December, festive spirit and my love for children’s charities have in common? Only an invite to Westminster Abbey for The Princess of Wales’ ‘Together At Christmas’ Carol Service!!!!! I appreciate that’s a lot of exclamation points but absolutely acceptable here, I think.

Invitations to Princess Kate's carol concert
Louise attended Princess Kate's carol concert

When I tell you I was bursting with joy to be invited, I was truly bursting. What an event!

Attending Princess Kate's carol concert

The Abbey was stunning, the décor on point (I think it was actually Hobbycraft who decorated some of the many Christmas trees – love that, you know I’m a crafty girlie!) and the service was perfection. It’ll be aired on ITV on Christmas Eve so I won’t share any spoilers but I felt the balance was perfectly struck. Modern readings with traditional carols, a fresh, uplifting energy and a real sense of unity at this most wonderful time of year.

I stepped down those iconic steps feeling the year was ending on a high, that I was truly and completely living, just as my Mum would want me to, especially around her anniversary.

Whatever you find under the tree this year, let me gently and lovingly remind you that the real gift is being here, living your life each and every day.

Thank you for reading, I wish you the most perfect Christmas and I can’t wait to see you in 2024 for what I seriously think will be our best year yet!

Find more from Louise on her Instagram and visit HELLO!'s Happiness Hub for more uplifting content.