This year has been rough for a lot of people. While we’ve all grappled with pandemic fatigue, boredom, stress, and cabin fever, others have also dealt with sickness and loss. Unfortunately, over 300,000 people have lost their lives to the coronavirus. That’s such a mind-blowing number that it can be hard to imagine. But for many, that number is one (or more), specific person. During this time of year, it can be especially challenging to deal with the grief of losing a loved one.
If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know that Christmastime is especially hard for me and my family. On Christmas Eve 2010, I lost my dad unexpectedly. He was only 49 years old and no one saw it coming. He had a massive heart attack in his sleep and never work up. Since that date, holidays, and especially Christmas, have been hard. My dad loved Christmas and it’s bittersweet that he passed on a day he loved so much.
I won’t give the cliche advice that time heals all wounds and that grief will go away. If you’ve recently lost someone, you may think that that pain will never go away. And the truth is, it doesn’t. In reality, at least for me, you learn to live with the pain. Some days it’s barely there while others it will sit with you like a ton of bricks. Days will go by so slow without that person but months and years will fly by in the blink of an eye. Milestones will be celebrated with quiet undertones that someone is missing.
For me, the way that I find to still enjoy the holiday season is to recognize that pain. Christmas will never be the same without my dad. There’s no way it can be. But as a family, we’ve created new memories and new traditions. We keep my dad alive by telling stories about him and the things he loved. I tell Stokely about his Papa all the time. Because although he’ll never meet him, there’s a part of him still here in my mom and me.
Losing a loved one is never easy. Time will make the loss more manageable, but those who mean a lot to us always sit in our hearts. If you find yourself with an empty chair this holiday season from a family or friend that is no longer here, know that you are not alone. There are many of us feeling the same way you do. I hope that you find comfort in knowing that grief is natural and normal and we all will experience it at some point in our lives. If you can, try to find a small piece of joy this holiday season and remember those we’ve lost we love and a smile.