Last year, I lost my dad in October. Among many things, this meant I would very quickly approach two major holidays without his presence. Naturally, I am absolutely gung-ho about every holiday there is (partially because delusions of grandeur, but alas) and so I quickly found myself in a weird space where I wanted to welcome holidays but knew it came with a certain level of sadness as I faced my first holidays in 28 years without my family’s patriarch. The grief struggle was real.
For Thanksgiving, I was eager to go home. I wanted to be back at his grave. My last link to his presence. Even as Thanksgiving approaches now, I feel that same yearning to go back and sit at his grave. I haven’t been since March, and I am counting down the days until I am near his resting place.
Christmas damn near broke me. You see, if my dad hadn’t been a professor, his next calling would’ve been a pastor. My dad would read us the story of Jesus’ birth and share some remarks in his super low tone that was specifically dedicated to all things Christ related — prayer, scripture, you name it. He would remind us that Christmas wasn’t just for the presents, and invite us to consider how it would be if we gave others presents for our birthdays.
Year 1 I awoke in tears. Everything about the day just seemed to be lacking his jovial presence. I cried in the kitchen. I sobbed as we opened presents and I looked at my family and missed him so much.
My mentor likes to remind me that my tears aren’t in vain. That though I’m hurting, I can use my experiences to help others behind me along. So here I am. Crying at my computer (again) and here with a few helpful tips.
Don’t Try to Avoid Your Feelings
At different points in my grief journey, I’ve gotten frustrated at where I am. I used to be upset that I was still a random teary mess, some days now I am upset if a day goes by and I don’t remember if I thought about my dad. At the end of the day, I just try to give myself grace and allow myself to be where I am without setting expectations of where I should be. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to tell a cheesy joke, do so. But it just isn’t productive or even helpful to avoid processing how you feel at the moment.
Take Time to Remember Good Times with Your Loved One
When you start to miss your loved one, take time to write down a memory or share with others about things they would do. For me, I love talking about my dad, both with people who knew him and people who only know him through me. It definitely brings a small light in the darkness of grief.
Make a Tradition to Memorialize Your Loved One
Actually, other people told me to do this. I don’t remember actually making one, but it seems like a good idea. Generally, I just aim to be at home for Thanksgiving. That counts, right?
Talk to Someone About How You’re Feeling
You’ll guess that my running theme is not to hold things in. I had so many amazing family and friends that were just a text away, ready to share some sweet words or just let me know that they had been where I had been and everything is going to be okay.
Surround Yourself with Loved Ones….And Maybe Cupcakes
This year, on the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing, I invited my sister and her two kids to stay in my 550 sq. ft. apartment. We watched movies. We went to church. We went to Sprinkles. And being around people I loved truly helped to lessen the sting of that day. For Father’s day, the same sister and I went to the furniture store and did other random things while enjoying each other’s presence. We would make jokes and talk about my dad, but it definitely helped being around someone that simply got it.
This isn’t the end all be all guide to grief, but I hope that it serves as an encouragement as you go through the toughest time of your life. Even if I don’t know you, I love you and wish the best for you as you go through.