First Christmas Without Dad

The holidays can be filled with love and joy, but when you are fighting memories and heartbreak of losing someone it can be anything but joyful.  My dad passed away eleven years ago when I was fifteen.  It was absolutely heartbreaking for my entire family.

First Christmas Without Dad - Christmas Traditions That Healed Our Hearts - Ginger Bread Houses

First Christmas Without Dad – Christmas Traditions That Healed Our Hearts – Ginger Bread Houses

When Christmas came six short months later, I felt like we were all holding our breath.  If we let out the air, the pain would be too sharp to handle.  Without Dad, we couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for our annual traditions.  Dad was goofy at Christmastime and his excitement was contagious.  No wanted to and no one could take his place.  Luckily, angels came to our family that year.

One angel was Stephanie Nye.  She made gingerbread houses, one for each of us six kids, to assemble and decorate.  They were beautiful.  We created candyland castles with frosting, sprinkles, and sweets.  Gathered around the table in a newtradition was unifying.  The spirit of a happy family playing together once again filled our home.  This became a tradition that we could enjoy without replacing Christmas memories of Dad.

The next angel was my aunt Marilyn.  She sent a bag of mini-marshmallows, plastic goggles, and 18-inch pvc pipes for an indoor snowball fight.   We ducked, giggled, and screamed as the brothers chased the sisters.  With time this tradition evolved to a tamer version for young nieces and nephews.  Aunt Marilyn also sent the book “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” with directions to play the Grinch gift game.  These new traditions have added excitement that we now anticipate year after year.

Christmas Traditions - The Grinch Game

Christmas Traditions – The Grinch Game

The last angel was my sister Tia who wrote a beautiful program about the birth of Christ.  She used the scriptures and the Christmas hymns as well as her own thoughts to remind us of our gratitude for Christ.  The Spirit of God bore witness to us that we could be together as a family for eternity.   Every year since, we enjoy this religious part of our celebration, but that first year was especially memorable with the passing of our Dad so recent.

While many tried to ease our burdens that year, the ones that gave the gift of new family traditions truly blessed my life.  There were tears and heartbreak that Christmas for sure, but it was also filled with unity and hope, drawing us even closer to Dad.