Column: LA Times
In 2017, Lilli, our content editor, lost her father.
Today, she reflects back on her first Christmas without her dad, and offers some words of encouragement to those suffering from loss this holiday season.
-Chad, opinion editor
Picture the opening scene from “Saving Private Ryan:” soldiers scrambling around the beach, trying to protect themselves and their countrymen while fighting a ruthless, consuming enemy. That is what my experience with grief feels like.
The 2017 holiday season was one that I army-crawled through as bombs of grief, depression, fear and heartache ripped through my home. It was our first holiday season without my dad — a strong lion-like leader with a vibrant personality. His death shocked our community and rattled my family. The holidays are supposed to be magical. They are supposed to bring family together. But I felt like the chasm between my dad and I was getting bigger.
Traditions as simple as my dad perfecting the Thanksgiving gravy while singing 80s love songs to my mom were suddenly no more. His smile wasn’t waiting by the tree on Christmas morning. He couldn’t give my mom presents or help my little brother assemble his Legos or proudly hand me a perfectly handcrafted cup of coffee.
And just like it’s the little quirks that make each family’s holiday season unique and magical, it’s the loss of these little quirks that hurt the most. Hurt makes us susceptible to living under reproach, which is why those who battle through grief must guard their hearts with vigilance.
So, dear solider, love well. Grief is ruthless and mean, but you don’t have to be. This time last year, I was losing my mind because I lost my dad. I was grieving my entire existence because I felt like everything changed. I lost sight of the people around me — the people I still had.
This year, I am determined to take the magic my dad contributed to my life and give it to my family. I am determined to find the beautiful and charming in this year.
And fellow solider, be meek. Grief is a powerful tool, and it can be easily wielded to hurt others, to subject them to a version of your own pain. Do not use it.
Family and friends will unintentionally say hurtful season’s greetings. Last year, a well-knowing family member announced it was “the best Christmas ever.” I quietly slipped out of the family room and cried somewhere else in my house. I could have made a scene and said biting words. I could have let the elephant in the room run rampant, but that would have been uncontrollably using the power of my grief. It wouldn’t have been meek.
And most of all, be grateful. Remember the beautiful moments of the past and hold them in your heart with love. There is no room to grow with a bitter and angry heart. And there is no room for anger or bitterness in a grateful heart. Cherish every memory of a loved one who has arrived at eternity. It’s okay to reminisce; it’s okay to cry — you’re allowed to have feelings, but every hard moment should end in gratefulness and not anger.
Have a Merry Christmas. While it will be hard, be comforted knowing you have survived one of your darkest days.