Grief, Loss and the Holidays

I love the holidays. From about mid November until New Year's Eve I am as festive as it gets. I have decorations up, music playing, my Christmas t-shirts are washed and my Christmas headgear is ready to go. I am done my Christmas shopping every year before Thanksgiving, I am just so excited to pounce into the Christmas season!

However, for many people, the season is less than festive. It is a reminder of grief and loss of loved ones who are no longer around to share. Several people come to my mind that I know really struggle through the Christmas season.

In years past I felt ill equipped to offer any opinion on this because I had no relevant experience. Who was I to weigh in on such a sensitive topic with no background experience?

However, as many of my readers know, about this time three years ago, my father's already poor health began to rapidly decline. The last time I saw him stand up was Thanksgiving of 2016, and he passed away the day after Christmas.

Many of my coworkers and acquaintances made delicate comments to me like, "I worry how you'll handle the holidays. You love Christmastime, and now not only have you lost your dad, but at Christmas. It's so sad!"

As I sit here, I think of my dad and smile. My dad loved Christmas. Even that last Christmas, it was he who insisted that the tree be put up, the decorations be displayed. My dad loved Christmas music. My dad loved the Christmas movies. My dad loved a hilarious white elephant gift exchange. And yes that 2016 Christmas was incredibly sad and difficult to get through. But my dad did not raise me to shrink from the joys and delights of life.

In some ways, I always feel like I learned how to grieve watching my dad. I never met his father, and barely knew his mother. But he talked often about his parents. He talked about them warmly, with humor. He told funny stories about who they really were, not idealized images of "perfect" parents, but warm stories of their quirks, their personalities, and their love for him. He would laugh and smile and then sometimes he would sigh and say, "I miss them everyday."

But my dad lived his life. He loved his family as it remained, he enjoyed the holidays and yearly celebrations. My dad loved gift giving, he was a fantastic and generous gift giver. He loved to try to convince his adult children that Santa was actually real. He loved to surprise my mom with a fantastic piece of jewelry at Christmastime. Maybe he missed his parents everyday, but he didn't let a moment pass where he didn't love those still living and in his circle.

Will I miss my dad over the holidays? Very much so, yes. But I miss him everyday. I don't miss him any more on Father's Day than I do on a random Tuesday. And I will miss him on Christmas Eve when we are opening our gifts and listening to music. But I miss him when I cannot share a successful moment at work with him. When I can't tell him I beat a new level in a video game we both played. When I cannot tell him the lamest and funniest dad joke I ever heard.

But my dad would be proud of us all that we share the joy of Thanksgiving and Christmas even though he is gone, that we extend the warmth to our friends and acquaintances. He would be proud that we shine the light, spread the cheer, and live for every joy. My dad would want our reflections to be on our blessings and on our Savior and on our love for one another.

Perhaps in his honor I'll play some extra Christmas songs, drink an extra glass of eggnog, or surprise someone with an unexpected gift. How can I best honor his legacy other than keeping the warmth he taught us go on for the holidays without him?

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