Death of a Parent Grief

Making New Memories This Christmas: Choosing Joy Over Grief

Written by Tineke Franssen

Since my parents go divorced when I was 12, Christmas was always celebrated with my dad. There was never a discussion, it was at my dad´s place and everybody would be there at least one of the days. My dad, his new wife, her kids and the five of us. In all those years I think I only missed once because we decided to stay in Spain with my parents-in-law and I hated it. So the years after, the hubby knew better than asking what we would do for Christmas; my dad´s it was.

Our tradition was that everybody made a dish, when you were young it was with the help of my dad and in the later years we were in charge and he was only supposed to do the wine pairing. (Pretty hard to stay out of the kitchen for an avid cook so he usually ended up cooking anyway.)  After hours of wining and dining, most nights finished around the piano, him playing and the rest of us singing (or screaming in my case after a couple of wines).  

If only last year we would have known, it would be his last Christmas…

As always, he did most of the cooking even though he couldn’t eat due to an upcoming operation to remove his stomach cancer. On Christmas Eve we received very good news from the hospital so we were all so relieved and full of hope: next year we would have a normal Christmas again, where he could also join the eating and drinking part, and we would end up around the piano instead of listening to others making music.

Yet here we are, it’s almost “next year” and one thing is for sure: it’s not going to be a normal Christmas. How can it be without my dad?  

Since none of us saw this one coming, all of us made different Christmas plans for this year, because the old format without my dad would just be too painful. It’s too soon for that. So this year we are staying in Spain, in our new house, instead of travelling back to the Netherlands.

For a few months now, I have been dreading Christmas. I didn’t want Christmas to come and I didn’t want to know anything about. I know that especially on those days I will miss my dad so much and just thinking about Christmas makes the pain of his loss almost unbearable.

However, despite dreading Christmas, this weekend I decided to put the decorations up anyway, because no matter what, Christmas is around the corner and I need to make something off it whether I like it or not.

And although it hurts so much just thinking about Christmas, when we set up a little tree in our living room the look on my son’s face seeing the lights and the decorations made me realize that this Christmas has to be about making new memories. Christmas was my dad’s thing so I owe it to him to make it one to remember.

Making New Memories This Christmas: Choosing Joy Over Grief

About the author

Tineke Franssen

Tineke Franssen is a working mom abroad that is trying to keep her sanity amongst cultural clashes both at work and at home (Spanish parents in law anyone?). When she is not in the office or working through piles of laundry, you can find her drinking wines with friends, watching Grey´s Anatomy, playing fieldhockey or writing on her blog

  • Barrie (Daily Dump)

    Lovely post. We just lost my mother-in-law earlier this year. Christmas is going to be tough as we had our own traditions, like everyone does. I like the idea of doing something completely different than the usual. It is not going to be the same without her, so why every try to make it the same. Thanks for posting. I am sorry for your loss. #MMBH

    • Tineke F

      I´m sorry for your loss girl and i hope you and your family can still enjoy the holidays together despite missing her so much. Sending you lots of love!

      • Barrie (Daily Dump)

        Thank you!

  • Nina

    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas with new experiences that will bring you joy in honor of your dad! <3

    • Tineke F

      Thank you so much Nina, that means a lot!

  • Belle Bermudez-Tubel

    What a lovely post! My heart bled for you but you are brave to choose joy over grief this holiday season. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope you will be healed soon.

    One Awesome Momma

  • Shannan Panganiban

    Holidays can bring out the deepest emotions!

    • Tineke F

      Definitely! When everybody joins together the empty seat becomes even more clear…

  • I am so sorry for your loss. The holidays can be hard for memories like that. I still miss my dad and think about what it would be like if her was there. Xoxox

    • Tineke F

      Thanks Joanna! Yes, on moments where everybody comes together, the missing get worse, no matter how much time passes. xo

  • I can fully understand this as this Christmas we will be celebrating without both my dad and my sister. It’s hard for sure. I’m glad you have decided to make new memories with your own children! That will help you heal… <3

    • Tineke F

      I´m so sorry Harmony, it´s so hard! Wishing you all the strength and joy as well with your family and hope that the good memories will help you enjoy those days.

  • Coombe Mill (Fiona)

    such a beautiful post, I love the sound of your Christmases with your Dad, what wonderful memories to treasure, I hope your new Christmases in Spain will carry the same joy for your own children. #TwinklyTuesday

    • Tineke F

      Thank you so much for reading Fiona!

  • I can’t imagine your grief, but it’s beautiful of you to choose joy. I love that you shared this.

    • Tineke F

      Thank you so much Kristie, means a lot!

  • Bee

    Sorry for your loss. It’s hard to lose a loved one, and I can understand how you feel. I lost both my parents at the same time. Every time Christmas comes, it’s a struggle to even put out the Christmas tree. I love this phrase: choosing joy over grief. Thank you!

    • Tineke F

      I´m so sorry to hear that Bee, that´s awful! It´s so difficult to celebrate something joyful when such important people are missing right? Hope with the good memories you can also have a nice christmas

  • Justine Y

    What great memories you have of past Christmases! Sometimes it can be hard to choose to be happy when we’re feeling anything but, but it can be so important. I think especially when you have children. I hope your holiday season is wonderful!

    • Tineke F

      Thanks so much Justine! Wishing you the best holidays as well!

  • Trista Peterson

    This is so touching! I am so, so sorry for your loss. It really is best to view this season through the eyes of a child! Not about the presents or the toys, but more about the festivities. The extra time spent together and the fun decorations. I am sure it will be a holiday you’ll always remember!

    • YESSSS, this exactly! Thank you so much Trista, merry christmas to you and your family!

  • Lady Nym

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how painful the thought of Christmas without your dad must be. Hopefully, you can make some new traditions and memories, whilst holding on to the ones you formed with your dad.


    • Thank you so much, really appreciate it! Hope you have amazing holidays with your family!

  • Oh. I know. I am praying for your comfort as you move forward and for those memories to warm your heart. You are so smart to choose joy but know …it is okay-good in fact- to grieve. Grieving is a good for the soul. May God bless you this season. (I miss my dad too…)

    • i am sorry for your loss Lori and thanks for your kind message. You´re right, it´s important to also grief and not only focus on the moving on. Merry christmas to you and your family!

  • Wow what a beautiful post! thanks for your vulnerability!

  • I really hope you can enjoy making your new memories x #twinklytuesday

  • Mary mozingo

    I cannot even fathom what that must feel like… your dad sounds like he was an incredible man! To carry on a great Christmas is so strong of you Tineke!

    • Thank you so much Mary, hope you´re having great holidays with your family!

  • Leighann Hall

    I’m so sorry about your Dad:( I’m glad that you are still trying to choose joy, it sounds like that’s what he would want. Thoughts go out to you and your family<3

    • Thanks Leighann! I think so too. Merry christmas for you and your family!

  • Sara Oberton

    So sorry to hear about your dad. I’m glad to hear you can celebrate with your little boy and remember the fun times with your dad.

    • Thank you so much Sara, i am sure he will be with us in some kind of way. Hope you have wonderful holidays as well!

  • mirinadler

    May you find comfort in this season.

  • Messy Nest Mama

    I am sorry to hear about your dad. I pray that you find comfort this holiday season. Thanks for sharing something so personal with us.

    • Thank you girl, really appreciate that. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

  • Brittany McGee

    So sorry about your dad I pray you find joy in your babies xoxo

    • Thank you so much Brittany! Merry christmas to you and your lovely family too!

  • Sorry to hear about your dad, thank you for sharing your story.

  • Livi

    I love that, choosing joy over grief. I am so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers, sister.

  • Shop Girl

    The first holidays without my dad were the hardest…not that it’s any easier 20 years later, I wish he could have met my grandchildren, walked me down the aisle, etc. etc. but on the holidays the spiritual essence of him surrounds me and still makes it whole. 🙂

    • Yesss, those are some of my thoughts exactly. I guess it will never be easy but I am sure they are with us in some way. Merry christmas for you and your family!

  • I’m so sorry for your loss. May you find comfort in seeing your children enjoy the magic of Christmas.

  • Jaki Jelley

    My heart breaks for you reading this. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. I hope the strength your family gives you helps you get through. Children are such a blessing. #twinklytuesday

    • They definitely are Jaki, kids can really help you to keep going and dealing with your grief. Merry christmas!

  • tabithablue

    Bless you, it can’t be easy. I love that you’re remembering him and still setting up the decorations, even in spite of the pain. We can honor our loved ones, even when they aren’t here with us. Have a great Christmas in his memory!!

    • Thank you Tabitha, it´s hard but it´s important to honor and remember our loved ones that way. Merry christmas to you and your family too!

  • You are so lucky to have wonderful loving memories with your father. And I know it’s raw, but it is a beautiful thing to carry on his spirit throughout the holidays, especially remembering him for your child. Best wishes.

    • Thanks so much and you´re right, i really cherish all the Christmases we did have together!