I should preface this by saying that this is not going to be a “How To” article. Instead, I am going to share several things that have helped me over these last 7 years. When it comes to topics like this, you can’t follow a certain guideline. Everyone’s experience is different and we all grieve in our ways. My hope is that maybe this could help someone get through this holiday season with a little more comfort and peace in their heart.
I knew as soon as I sat down in front of my laptop that this would be a difficult piece to write. I’m pretty sure that I will rewrite this a dozen times before clicking that publish button. Out of all the years I’ve had this platform, I’ve never actually dedicated a post on this topic. I thought it was finally time.
The truth is that you guys really inspired me to write this. Whenever I talk or write about my father, I receive an abundance of messages from those who have also lost a parent or a loved one. It’s good to be reminded that we are not going through it alone, while many times it does feel that way. To be blunt, it’s F’in hard, especially during this season. While the holidays are my absolute favorite, it’s also an extremely difficult time.
The emptiness that I still feel without my father is undeniable. I look around the room or at one of the chairs at the table longing to see his face. I wish that I could see his huge grin when opening up presents or be greeted with the smell of his cooking for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. When you’re so used to these special moments, it’s not easy to go through life without them.
For a very long time, I actually felt guilty to celebrate the holidays without my dad. How could I possibly be happy knowing that he was no longer here? It was a constant thought that I struggled with and truthfully, sometimes still do. While I can’t see him in the flesh, I truly believe and know in my heart that he really is still here, celebrating all of life’s moments with me.
The spiritual connection that I have with him has gotten stronger over the years. He communicates with me constantly by sending messages. I swear it’s no coincidence that these messages come to me directly after asking him for them. It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true. I have found so much comfort in that. If you stop and pay attention, I bet your loved one is sending you messages too.
Last year on December 19th, my grandma passed away and became our Christmas Angel. It was extra hard on all of us to celebrate. For the sake of my niece’s first Christmas and because of the joy she has brought into our lives, we somehow found the strength to get through it. That’s the funny thing about strength. We do not realize how strong we really are, especially in the moments that make us feel so weak. It’s there though. We just have to tap into it.
One thing that has helped me is just truly being grateful for all of my family that I still have, especially my mom. The first few years were extremely rough and I started to realize that I had to take advantage of all the holidays that I still get to celebrate with her. We began to create new traditions together, like going into Bryant Park or Rockefeller Center to see the tree and have dinner. Having these special moments together has honestly made this season a little easier.
And now, I have an almost 2 year old niece and I’m able to start new traditions with her as well. She’s still too young to understand what Christmas means, but I know that as she gets older there will be so much more that we can do with her to celebrate the holidays. I look forward to that so much. While of course, no one can ever fill the void of my father or my grandma, it helps to be surrounded by so many other loved ones.
Starting new rituals, carrying out old traditions or doing a combo of both can be extremely therapeutic. Every year for Christmas, in addition to our gifts, my dad would put together a bag of goodies for me and my sister. The bag usually contained a bunch of travel size products, gift cards to restaurants and gas stations, and anything else that he thought we could use. We loved this idea so much and began to look forward to it every year.
When he first passed away, my sister decided to continue doing this for me and my mom. I think we only did it for the first 2 or 3 years, but it helped make us feel that he was still present. It sort of felt like he was right there in the room with us. I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately and plan on starting it up again this Christmas.
My dad loved to cook and he used to make these incredible stuffed mushrooms for holiday meals, so one year on Thanksgiving I took on the challenge. While mine did not taste as good as his, it still brought back so many memories of sharing those dinners with him. Food in general is strongly connected to specific times in our lives. Using a loved ones recipe, especially during the holiday season, can be extra special.
Every year for his birthday, I bring a cupcake to the cemetery. I light a candle. I sing Happy Birthday to him and let the wind blow it out. It’s my way of celebrating him. When my sister got married, we left an empty seat at the dinner table and put a candle, rose and photo of my father in front of it. We seriously felt his presence.At our first few Thanksgivings with more of our family members, we would all go around the table and share some of our favorite memories of him, then we would pray and take a moment of silence. It made us cry, but it made us smile too. These are just a few examples of how we try to keep his spirit alive.
Something else that works for me is taking a little break or time out during this busy season to allow myself to let it all out. I notice that I sometimes mask the pain by keeping myself occupied, but it honestly helps to just let yourself cry when you need to. It’s such a release. Don’t forget to take good care of yourself in the midst of it all.
For me personally, all of these things have helped tremendously over the last 7 years. And now with my grandma gone, all I can do is immerse myself in the moments that I still get to spend with my grandpa. I see so much of her and my father through him. He’s the last physical piece that I have of them. I cherish every moment that I get to spend with him.
It’s important to note that it’s OK to feel sad this time of year. You have to allow yourself to go through the motions. All you can do is take one holiday season at a time, just like you do with each new day that passes. There’s no set formula on how to deal with loss. There’s no rule book to follow to work through your grief. Never allow anyone to make you feel as though you have to “rush” this healing process. It’s ongoing and some days will be harder than others.
If you are currently grieving or trying to get through the holidays after losing a loved one, my wish for you is that you find peace and calmness in the process. Whatever you decide to do to keep their spirit alive or even if you don’t do anything at all, I just hope you know that you are not alone in how you feel. I hope you realize that while they are physically gone, they are still very present in your life and always will be.
Thanks so much for reading. Sending you love, light and strength this season and always. ❤️