An empty chair.

One fewer place to set.

One fewer present to buy.

No matter how many years have passed, the holidays are a painful reminder you aren’t here. 

All at once the memories come flooding back.

Your infectious laugh and the way your smile lit up any room you entered.

How you could never seem to run out of hugs or candy.

The way you would cock your head to the side and ask with a smile, “What’s happening in your little world?”

Memories weave a bittersweet path down memory lane. It feels like yesterday and so long ago at the same time. Although we miss you every day, your loss is amplified each time our family gets together. My eyes keep searching for you. I keep expecting you to walk through the door any moment.

My heart aches to hug you once more.

I wish I could go back to the days when you were still here, and we were all together.

I wish I could still hold you and tell you how much I love you. 

I wish you could watch my children grow up.

I wish I could ask you for advice.

I wish I could hear your voice.

There are so many things I want to ask you: How are the holidays in heaven? What was your first Christmas there like?

We do our best to honor you by doing the things you loved in life. It’s in those times your presence is felt the most.

I feel you by my side as my hands carefully decorate the tree with the ornaments you made and looking over my shoulder as we make your favorite recipes. I see you in the eyes of my children when I tell them stories about you and share memories of Christmas growing up.

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Missing you never gets easier. Sometimes the grief is slow-burning; other times it’s an all-consuming fire. The pain of your loss is always there. But in those times, I try to remember how you would say, “Life is full of peaks and valleys,” and, “We only part to meet again.”

Grief is a delicate dance of learning to let go of the pain of losing you while holding onto the joy you brought into our lives.

The holidays aren’t the same without you. But nothing ever stays the same. We must carry on in faith and know the overwhelming grief we carry is a sign of the unspeakable love in our hearts. While memories may fade over time, my love for you never will.

Until the day when I can wrap my arms around you once more, part of me will be missing. No matter how long you have been gone, you are forever a part of me, and those treasured times we shared will always be the best part of coming home for the holidays.

Grief is messy and can feel so lonely. It’s OK That You’re Not OK is a great read for anyone who is grieving or supporting a loved one through grief. Don’t have time to read? You can listen here, on Audible.

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Melanie Mogensen

Melanie Mogensen is a writer, wife, and mother of three who knows all too well how life can change in an instant. From becoming a young mom in her early 20s to managing twins and battling cancer, she is no stranger to adversity and God’s grace. Two years ago, in the middle of her own struggle with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, she began sharing her story to help cope and let others know that even the most difficult times there is always hope and something to be grateful for. Check out more on her blog or follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.