How Holidays Become More Difficult After Losing A Parent

Ah, holiday cheer. The carols, the camaraderie, the gift-giving, the thankfulness, and the joy.

It’s a wonderful time of the year.

But, if you have lost a parent, it unfortunately may not be as cheerful.

I lost my father to Multiple Sclerosis in November of 2009. I was just 18 years old, and it happened less than two weeks before Thanksgiving. As you can imagine, that Thanksgiving was not one of my best.

Now I am not saying that if you lost a parent you will never enjoy a holiday again. Because that’s not true (hopefully). I still love Thanksgiving and Christmas and the entire season. I still very much get into the holiday cheer. It’s just different than it was.

How Holidays Become More Difficult After Losing A Parent

You feel that something is missing. 

I feel my father’s missing presence daily, and if you have lost a parent, I am sure that you do too. But this is especially profound on the holidays.

There is an extra space open where he used to sit. There is a conversation happening that he most definitely would have participated in. His favorite food or desert is still being made, but he is not there to enjoy it. That Christmas song he always used to sing comes on and you can still hear his voice singing it to you, but it is not the same.

You miss being able to celebrate with him, even the little things such as being able to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving or a Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate), or telling him that you are grateful for him.

It’s all around bittersweet.

You want to enjoy the holiday season, especially as you know that it is what your parent would have wanted. But, part of you feels guilty for enjoying it and being happy, despite your parent not being here. You know you deserve to be happy and to laugh and sing carols at the top of your lungs, but sometimes, it just feels wrong.

How can you still enjoy this when you have lost someone who meant so much to you, someone who should be there enjoying the holidays with you?

The holidays are still a beautiful time, but it is a sad time as well. It is yet another reminder that you have a lost a parent. You see pictures on social media, you see your cousins there with both of their parents, and you just cannot help but feel a little bit sad.

Gift giving starts to hurt.

All. Of. Those. Commercials. About. What. To. Get. Dad. I know, I know they have to have them. It’s marketing and advertising 101 and people need ideas as to what to get their parents. But, it sucks.

I should be out there, buying gifts for my father, but I can’t. A new form of technology comes out, or one of my father’s favorite musicians goes on tour, and it would make the perfect gift for him, but, it’s not possible. All of the commercials, and all of the gifts, are just another reminder of something that I have lost.

The memories surround you. 

I was very fortunate to have my father for eighteen years. That is eighteen Christmases we spent together. That is a lot of memories, and more than some people have. For that, I truly am so grateful.

But, opening gifts on Christmas morning is no longer filled with my father’s presence; instead, it is filled with his memory.

Every Christmas morning, I think back to Christmases of the past, and how my father would be there smiling in excitement to see him open his gift from me. Or the days of my childhood when he would set up the video camera to get our happiness on tape. Or how we would all sit at the table, all together, for our Christmas breakfast tradition of cinnamon rolls. You just cannot help getting lost in the memories.

You cry. 

This is supposed to be a happy time, and it is. But it is a sad one too. And sometimes, you can’t help but to cry. No one should cry on Christmas (or Hanukah, or Kwanza, or whatever you are celebrating). But, it happens. You need to get it out. His missing presence feels like a knife to the heart, and no matter how many holiday seasons go by, it’s still there. In a way, it’s even harder as time goes on, because it is so much more that he has missed.


If you have lost a parent, and are having a difficult holiday season, you are not alone.

I am not going to say that it is okay, because none of this is okay. It is not fair that you need to be dealing with this. It is not fair that you are missing a loved one during what is supposed to be one the most joyful times of year.

But remember, your parent would have wanted you to join in on some holiday cheer. So please try to. And if you need someone to talk to, I’m here. And I understand.

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