This is my third Christmas without my dad. One less stocking to hang, one less present to purchase, one less person to kiss under the mistletoe. Grieving doesn’t get any easier, you simply learn how to navigate the endless ebb and flow of grief.

There is an unwritten rule of being jolly and sprinkling tons of holiday cheer this time of year. Christmas magic is in the air, holiday music is all around us and almost every single house is twinkling. But for some, this is not the most wonderful time of the year. For some the holiday season brings incredible sadness and grief.

I spent my father’s last Christmas holding his hand, telling him I loved him. I remember my father telling me that Christmas to take care of my mother because he knew he wouldn’t be here much longer. I was in full-blown denial and I told him he wasn’t allowed to leave. We needed him. He smiled and we both cried because we knew God had other plans for our family.

When my father was healthy, he was a force to be reckoned with. He was larger than life. He was the loudest, funniest, most amazing person in the room. People loved him, I adored him. As my father’s health began to fail, I just could not imagine my world without him in it.

My father’s death was expected; he endured seven years battling cancer. His last Christmas was heartbreaking. He was on hospice, and he was so weak and frail. He was unable to eat, surviving on a feeding tube. But my first, second, and now third Christmases without him are truly unbearable. To be totally honest with you, I have very little recollection of my first Christmas without my dad. But I will never forget the deafening silence and feeling as if my entire body was being weighed down with bricks. 

I thought, because my father was so ill, that I was prepared for his death. But I wasn’t prepared for the finality of death, I wasn’t prepared for the engulfing sadness, the gut wrenching pain and lethargy. During my first Christmas without my dad I searched for his presence everywhere. I challenged God in my head, I wanted a real Christmas miracle, I wanted to see my father again. 

No one told me that I would constantly be searching for my father that Christmas, constantly challenging God, begging him for just one last conversation with my dad. No one told me that the first Christmas without my dad I would feel as if I too was dying. No one told me that a broken heart could be physically painful. 

It didn’t matter that I have been receiving signs from my father since the moment he passed, my grief made me greedy. All I wanted for Christmas was for my dad to be with us again. And then it happened. I was alone in my kitchen preparing for Christmas Eve and there was a knock was on the door. I slowly made my way to the door to find the delivery guy from our local Chinese restaurant. Now I was really annoyed, didn’t this guy know I was in the middle of crying? I tried my best to smile and mumbled that no one ordered Chinese food. But this delivery guy was persistent, he showed me his order form with my phone number and address. I assured him I most certainly did not order Chinese food, in fact I was preparing for the Eve. And just like that he smiled, said, “Merry Christmas Miss Lisa,” and left.

Till this day I do not know how he knew my name, but I do know there is magic in Christmas. There is real Christmas magic that shows up even during the darkest moments of our lives, you just have to believe. Christmas is a time to believe in what you cannot see whether it is Santa Claus or Christ. The true meaning of Christmas isn’t found wrapped up under our trees or in Santa’s workshop, but in choosing our own way to keep those that we lost in our hearts, and cherish those that we still have in our lives. 

Lisa Ingrassia

Lisa is the Director of Events at Zenith Marketing Group, an insurance brokerage firm located in Freehold, NJ. She is passionate about sharing her father’s journey with cancer and bringing attention the difficult path a caregiver must walk. She has written guest articles for the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, The Mighty & Her View From Home. She is also a guest blogger for The Huffington Post. Fun fact: She’s obsessed with her Boston terrier Diesel and loves the color blue.