A Dark Christmas

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While at work a couple of co-workers were having a discussion about Christmas and gifts to give to family. One of my co-workers was trying to figure out what to get for her seventeen year old daughter. She asked “Do you remember what you wanted for Christmas when you were seventeen?” to my other co-worker. 

Although, this question was not directed at me, it did make me think back. When I was seventeen my dad died on September 11th  at the Pentagon from the Terrorists Attacks. I didn’t expect to be thinking about this and I didn’t share my story at the time. I let them carry on in their conversation without intruption. When they were done sharing I did ask my coworker what her daughter’s interests were. From there I was able to help her figure out a gift idea for her daughter.

Even though I never did share my story at the time, I do feel it is a story that I should share. I know I am not the only one who has dealt with loss around Christmas time, which is built up to be a time of joy. A loss of a loved one can make that year’s Christmas and Christmas’s to come a very gloomy and DARK CHRISTMAS. Why we try to hide this gloominess is beyond me, but people should know that not everyone’s Christmas is joyful. When I was seventeen I had one of the darkest Christmas’s I have ever had in my whole life.

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I was a highschooler who was getting ready to finish my senior year and begin my life as an individual. My senior year began with the most traumatic experience that was unimaginable at that time. Feelings were raw and trying to keep focus on what was important was very hard that year. For me, going to school was a great distraction of the pain and loss I was going through. When Christmas came around I thought I was doing ok, until I was on winter break and spent most of my time home with my family. I no longer had school as a distraction from my home life. 

We put up a tree and tried to take part in the celebration of Christmas, but it was not the same. It’s not like we never had a Christmas without my dad, he was in the military. We had several Christmas’s where my dad was deployed overseas and it was just my mom, sisters and me. However, this time my dad was really gone and he was not coming back anytime soon; he wasn’t coming back ever. That realization that someone you care about is physically gone for the rest of your life is hard to except and the emotional turmoil it causes never truly goes away.

I remember waking up that first Christmas morning after my dad’s death and feeling the weight of the world on me. I got out of bed, got dress and came out to the living room. I remember sitting in the chair staring at the decorated Christmas tree and thinking “What is there to celebrate?… This sucks, my dad isn’t here”. My heart was heavy and even though I was with my family, I still felt an emptiness inside and lonely despite being around people I cared about. I didn’t care about the gifts that were under the tree, because none of them brought my dad back. There was nothing you could give me that would make me genuinely smile that day. My mom, sisters and I tried to make the best of the holidays, but deep down we were all grief stricken. That Christmas only made us more depressed because it was a true reminder of our loss and the pain we were going through. 

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One day, if you have not already, you will have a Dark Christmas. It will be the darkest Christmas you will ever have and it may happen more than once. You may not want to celebrate that year or years to follow because of the dark cloud that hangs over your head and the pain in your heart. Which is OK! I don’t think you should have to celebrate Christmas like everyone else when you suffer such a huge loss and feel the way you feel. WHO SAYS CHRISTMAS HAS TO BE A JOYFUL ONE? Not me.

IF YOU ARE HAVING A DARK CHRISTMAS NOW, I want you to know it happens to us all and those of us who have had them can feel your pain. It may seem like nothing will get better and nothing will ever make you happy again. I hope that you find a way to cope and that one day you will find joy in Christmas again despite the loss of your loved one. I am not super enthusiastic about Christmas, but I do enjoy sharing it with my husband and kids. They have given me a reason to be joyful despite how much I miss my dad.

Those of you who are reading this and know someone who lost someone they love, please remember to go out of your way to reach out to him or her around the holidays. Check on them, let them know that you know the holidays are emotionally tough this year. Be there if they need to talk or just a place to go to to be distracted from the pain. They need the love and support even if the one they lost has been gone for months. 

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To answer the question my co-worker asked “Do you remember what you wanted for Christmas when you were seventeen?” Yes I do! I WANTED my LIFE to be back to NORMAL. I WANTED the PAIN and HURT to GO AWAY. I WANTED my DAD to BE ALIVE and to share that day and the days to come with me! Of course that is AN IMPOSSIBLE GIFT to give. I will always miss my dad and he will always be a huge part of my life, but it’s not the same as if he were still alive. I still wish I could wake up to him on Christmas morning. If he were to magically be back into my life I would give him the biggest hug in the world a daughter could give to a dad and I don’t know if I would let go.

If you are a teenager who asks for something for Christmas and you don’t get it, I hope you will remember this one thing; OBJECTS may HELP YOU PASS THE TIME, but THEY CAN’T LOVE YOU and SUPPORT YOU like a person can, LIKE A PARENT CAN or ANY LOVED ONE in your life. When you lose someone that hole in your heart never really goes away. As the saying goes “you never know what you will miss, until it is already gone”.

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