Life After Dad: On Christmas With Grief

A yuong black woman looks sad as she curls up with a blue blanket in front of a blue and silver Christmas tree

Nine emotions that I experienced during the first Christmas without my Dad.

Last week, I wrote my post, My First Christmas Without You, in which I reflected on how I was feeling about my first Christmas after the loss of my Dad. While there were some uncomfortable moments, there were some great moments, too. Let me explain.

1. Familial Love

One of the most touching moments of this Christmas was on a label. In fact, I only wish that I’d kept it now because it’d serve to remind me that no matter how annoying my brother can be, this is who he really is – a sweet, sensitive, thoughtful, caring guy. On the label, he wrote that the last year had been tough on us and he hoped for a better year for us both. Right there and then, I was reminded that we were in this together. He’s my brother, and I love him.

2. Frustration

“Make sure you all have your cracker with your name on!” my mother told us clearly. Naturally, I thought she’d bought alcohol miniatures which he’s carefully picked according to each person’s personal tastes. Instead, she’d slipped £30 into mine. Had that gone wrong, she would probably have had to fork out an extra £30 or made Christmas dinner very awkward with her new lodger. Nonetheless, she’d already spoilt me plenty and the extra money was kind but completely unnecessary. “Mother!”, I scolded her. Frustrated though I may be, I know she won’t have it any other way.

3. Sadness

Of course, after a loss, one expects the sadness to be fairly obvious and yet, when my mother toasted my father and mother-in-law at the dinner table, I didn’t shed a tear. I came close, but I didn’t. Instead, it was the British Bee Keeping Association magazine in my father’s name that made my eyes water. Dad loved his bees and it reminded me quite how much. “There’s a queen bee in there!” he’d say to the post lady as she passed over the priority shipping packet. I’d never seen her so keen to get away.

4. Awe

The new lodger is a bit of an enigma for me. My understanding is that he’s just been released from prison on drug-related charges, but he has one hell of an intense passion for cooking. I thought Matt and myself were passionate cooks, but he made our food look bland and processed. When you’re filling up on sausagemeat and chestnut stuffing with coke-roasted gammon, it’s hard to think about grieving. Orange cake with plum sauce and ice cream will similarly make it a Christmas I won’t forget.

5. Jealousy

It’s natural for siblings to have some form of jealousy between each other, but damn my brother can paint! The piece he created had a father and sun casting off of a pier in the moonlight. It was abstract art, but not difficult to see what he was trying to get the viewer to see and feel: These were his memories of Dad.

6. Anxiety

When I got into the car, my Mum had her hair up in a clear grip with multi-coloured jingle bells on either side. Try as I might to shake the thought, all I could think was that she looked a lot like her own Mum, not too soon before she passed. After losing my Dad, naturally, Mum has become ultra-invaluable to me.

7. Annoyance

One of the biggest turnarounds was in myself. I’d made a wreath to commemorate the lives of those who are no longer with us, and yet, not too soon after Christmas it sort of felt a bit wrong. Dad wouldn’t want that! He’d tell me that I was being silly, and going by everything that I have been told already, my mother-in-law would quite agree. The best I could do is to make him proud.

8. Amazement

On Christmas Day, my father-in-law did nothing short of surprise me. We were really worried that he would become emotional after the loss of his wife thirty years ago and with emotions being high this Christmas, but he did fine. He hates rats and was worried about them before he arrived, but we had him holding and stroking one of the female rats that my mother owns by the end of the night. Most people who realise fancy rats are nothing like sewer rats can be transformed into rodent lovers pretty quickly, and who can blame them?!

9. Gratitude

Lastly, there was gratitude. Gratitude for being hosted by my amazing, wonderful family, gratitude for the fantastic food I’d eaten and the generous gifts I’d received, but above all else there was gratitude for my father because without him, my family wouldn’t exist.

So thank you, Dad, for all of your love, and for all of our family.

Until next time,

Stay safe & have fun,

Helen xx

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