This will be the third Christmas Eve without my father. This will be the third Christmas Eve where the halls won’t echo with poorly-sung Christmas songs. This will be the third year that we won’t have goofy dancing as we countdown to Christmas day. This will be the third Christmas Eve my dad won’t parade his glorious purchase of too many fireworks.
My father died two years ago in September from a heart attack. No one saw it coming. The last thing I told him before he passed away was, “Next time I’ll bring more tacos. Love you. See you later.” I didn’t know how much later that would be.
Needless to say, it was hard for all of us. My mother just lost her partner of over 30 years; my 17-year-old brother lost a lifetime of memories; my 26-year-old brother lost his mentor; I lost myself.
I had gone to therapy before, for anxiety, and was hoping that those sessions would help me overcome immeasurable pain that I had in my heart and mind. But it didn’t. There were moments where I couldn’t breathe. Moments where the smallest reminder of my dad made me break down and collapse. I needed to go to grief counseling. I didn’t want to do it.
I just wanted to squash all the bad feelings away. I wanted to bury them so deep, they would just get lost in my infinite consciousness. I didn’t want to look at a picture of my dad. I didn’t want to look at the curly hair he left me. I didn’t want to be reminded that this wonderful relationship I have with my dad ended so abruptly.
Finally, after much persuasion, I made an appointment with a grief counselor. I knew it was going to be tough; after all, my therapy sessions for anxiety were tough, but this was a new pain. There were times I didn’t want to leave my car. There were days I wanted to cancel my session. There were times when I was so mad at my therapist for making me relive what has been the worst day of my life.
But then there were days when I didn’t cry. When I could remember my dad’s ridiculous antics and laugh. There were moments when I felt lucky to have had such a close relationship with my dad. There was a moment when I was thrilled that I could walk into my session and tell my therapist I was able to walk into a Home Depot (my dad’s favorite weekend spot) and not start crying. It felt good and it felt weird.
Creating a new normal, going through grief, learning to live with this absence, all of these were incredibly difficult things that I wouldn’t have been able to do without help. Loss is a complicated web of emotions. Without someone guiding me through it, not only would I have denied myself the emotional and mental support I needed, I would have denied myself the positive memories of my dad.
This is third Christmas Eve without my father. This is also the first Christmas Eve where all of us, as a family, celebrate with cheesy Christmas music, random dancing and fireworks. Lots and lots of fireworks.
–Jess P., Houston, TX
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