Christmas is set to look a little different for everyone this year with the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And one person who knows what it’s like to experience difficulty and grief around the festive period is Ruth Langsford, who will this year mark the second Christmas without her sister, Julia.
Ruth, 60, lost her sister last summer after she took her own life following a battle with depression.
And, as Christmas looms again, Ruth is, no doubt, battling a host of emotions as she prepares to celebrate what was her sister’s favourite time of the year…
A bittersweet time
Ruth has made no secret of the fact that Christmas can be a difficult time for those who are grieving. ‘It is going to be very hard,’ she explains. ‘Christmas is going to be challenging for everyone, but we have to try to remain optimistic.’
The festive season also happened to be Julia’s favourite time of the year, which makes it even more bittersweet. And while last year Ruth contemplated cancelling Christmas entirely – when it fell just six months after Julia’s death – she decided against it. ‘I could cancel Christmas, but my sister loved it so I’m having turkey and we’ll put Christmas carols on,’ she admitted at the time. ‘I’m sure we’ll cry, but we’ll also be happy.’
Now she’s vowed to stick to those traditions that remind her of Julia. ‘I’ve loved Christmas since I was a little girl. The traditions we did as a family have rubbed off on me – the tree, the stockings and the gifts, I love it. My mum, my sister and I would cook together in the kitchen every year and prepare the Christmas dinner. Us Langsford girls all loved preparing the food together. I will miss that so much.’
In Julia’s memory
Although Ruth admits she’s cried a lot of tears during the past year, she’s determined to live a happy life on behalf of her sister – and that, no doubt, includes trying to enjoy Christmas. ‘You can’t spend your whole life crying,’ she muses. ‘I’ve done a lot of crying over my sister.
‘It was tragic and difficult for all of us, but my sister wanted me to live a happy life. I’m lucky that I’ve got a loving husband and a good family, and all I can do is live a happy life in her memory.’
Coming to terms with grief
While 18 months may have passed since Julia’s death, for Ruth it feels just like yesterday. And Julia’s suicide left her with many unanswered questions.
‘When you lose somebody, it’s just horrible,’ she reveals. ‘But when someone takes their own life, it leaves you with so many questions that can’t be answered.’
Ruth’s grief was so bad she nearly quit her job, saying, ‘I didn’t feel I could ever go back to work again. It just seemed wrong to be cheery on screen, when inside my heart was breaking.’ Now she has come to terms with how her grief comes in waves.
‘I’ve learned that I can have those moments. Sometimes, I have a good old cry in the shower and feel better for it.’
Ruth’s husband, Eamonn Holmes, 60, says, ‘Ruth will grieve for the rest of her life. This will be her every Christmas, birthday, every day she wakes up and thinks of her lovely sister.’
A support network
Christmas with husband Eamonn and their son, Jack, 18, will be just the tonic Ruth needs after a turbulent year. ‘As with every year, we will plan lunch and then not actually get around to eating until two hours later,’ she admits. ‘And even if things are not as happy as they should be, there will be lots of laughter.’
And the Loose Women star knows she’s lucky to have such a good support network around her. ‘My dad once said to me, ‘You have to work at a marriage,’ and – you know what – Eamonn and I do just that. And the best thing of all is we laugh. We laugh a lot together. Life is up and down, but you have to try to ride through the storm.’
Having been together for 24 years, Ruth knows she can rely on him. ‘I always have the feeling with Eamonn that he is behind me with a big safety net and I know, at any minute, I can fall backwards and he’ll be there.’
That’s what we like to hear.