When we lose someone we loved, a part of us is never the same. When the seconds, days, weeks, months and years tick by, our mind gets used to the idea that they are gone, but our hearts continue holding on to the hurt.
I can speak from experience. I am approaching my 13th Christmas without my dad. He passed away when I was 23 years old. The first Christmas without him was incredibly hard. So was the second, the third, and every Christmas since. I wish I could sit here and write that the years have gotten easier, but they haven’t.
Christmas was my dad’s absolute favorite. My brother has a video of him opening a Christmas present and he is acting just like a little kid. Christmas made him absolutely happy. It didn’t matter if he was opening a new watch or a pair of socks, he treated his gifts like they were the thing he wanted more than anything else. As if they were diamonds, gold, or the rarest gemstone.
Every year I make a list of people that we need to buy for. Every year I have to physically stop myself from writing my dad’s name. Anytime I see something Kentucky Wildcat themed, I think that it would be a perfect gift for him. I still say that I need to stop at mom and dad’s. On Christmas Eve there is a void. Every single year.
That’s the thing that was hardest for me to get used to. The idea or notion that every single big moment in my life there would be an absence. While I am thankful that my dad was there for my college graduation and my wedding, he missed meeting my children and being there for our adoption day. There would have been nothing on this Earth that could have kept him from being there. I will not have any pictures of him with my children. I will never have a new picture of him.
Some days I am able to get through with that sinking feeling inside my chest. Some days it is like an endless pit of grief and it washes over me. That’s the thing about grief. It can come out of anywhere. A picture, a song, even a smell can send your emotions into a tailspin.
It begins with a tear that escapes my eyes. Just one. Then my bottom lip starts to quiver, and before I know it I am a blubbering mess. I quickly wipe the tears away and try to calm myself. That unwavering feeling settles in. It’s not the pain that you feel those first few minutes or days. It’s more of an ache. I almost think it would be similar to the phantom pains that people who have lost limbs experience. However, what your body is missing is an extension of your heart.
I grieve my dad every single day, holiday or not, but holidays make it so much more. They amplify it. I smile, I laugh, I joke, but deep down inside, I feel that loss. One third of my life has been without my dad. Some day that will be half, and then someday the time that I had with my dad will be such a small fraction of my life that it will seem miniscule.
However, the memories and the impact will be anything but. I will always grieve my dad. I will always grieve every loved one that I have lost. That’s the burden of loving. The pain you feel with the loved one is gone. But it’s worth it. I wouldn’t trade anything for the time I had with my dad. Not one second. Not even the end. I will live with the grief so that I can live with the memory.