Christmas without them.

I had something else all lined for today. I had other plans. But no. Today, I’d like to pretend that we’re sitting across from each other and enjoying venti versions of our favorite coffee shop pleasures.

And since we’re coffee buddies I want to tell you the thing I really need to say rather than the thing I planned on saying.  


I really miss my Dad this week, so much.  It hurts like a fire in my rib cage that he’s not here for Christmas.  It hurts so bad. I keep bursting into hopeless angry tears because I feel like there’s nothing I can do to get what I want.  I want my Dad back.  I want to call him and make him laugh, tell him all about what the kids are up to, gripe to him about the fact that they’re throwing up, ask him about the broken heater in Kel’s car, give him a hug and smell the combination of smoke and cold that always lingered on his collar.

He should be at my parents house in a flour covered kitchen filling card tables in the garage with one of his 5 signature cookies or baked goods.

He should be filling stockings with the really good deals he got on toothpaste and pens.

He should be putting light up deer in the front yard and imparting his irreplaceable Christmas magic onto my children.

Showing him that there are few greater gifts on Earth than being his kid at Christmastime.

He should be here, for Christmas.

I drove home from the grocery store today weeping, the sort where you should pull over but you don’t because you have to get home.

I pounded gloved fists on the steering wheel like a petulant child because in that moment I wanted something I couldn’t have.  I wanted my Daddy back.  I wanted to be a kid at Christmas with none of the cold reality of the behind the scenes work of it all.

I went shopping with my Aunt this weekend and as we walked through Kohls she told me this story:

I remember it was the morning after thanksgiving, had to be 3:30 in the morning and there we were all standing in the long checkout line at Kohls. We were so happy, laughing, joking, exchanging coupons with strangers. Your mom would stay in line while your Dad ran to get another color of fleece for your sister or something else he had a deal for.  We were having a riot, all of us in line in the middle of the night.  It was contagious, strangers started joking around with us… it had to be the Christmas before he died.

I want to go back in time, I want to be in that long line with my Aunts and Uncle and Parents and have a chance to be grown up and all together. I want a different ending to my family’s story because right now Christmas feels so lonely without them.

And you know what?  This post doesn’t resolve.  Not today.

This is the thing about grief, sometimes you just rest in it and sit for a while with your empty places.

You respect what you lost by acknowledging it with tears and breakdowns during coffee dates and trips to the grocery story.

Sometimes there’s yelling at God, sometimes all the peace you though you’d made with it can’t be found and you’re back to the rhythm of churning and aching.

Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel and Ransom Captive Israel
That Mourns in Lonely Exile here
Until the Son of God appears

If you’re mourning in lonely places I pray grace for you, moments of laughter in the mourning.  Feel free to tell me your story in the comments, I’m miles away but I’ll love and listen. 

If you have friends who ache for what they cannot have this holiday season check in and be ready to listen to how “not okay” it is.  Grief doesn’t resolve and the holidays put unrealized memories into sharp and painful perspective for so many of us.  Some years are worse than others, this year for me, coming home and realizing all I lost… it’s been incredibly hard.

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to this blog via email using the form below! 

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

There’s always twitter and Facebook too, you can join the conversation on all fronts. Join the conversation on all fronts, that’s my favorite.

  • Rea

    I’m sorry. I can’t begin to know that heartache. But I’m so sorry you can’t have what you want most for Christmas.

    We’ll be burying my husband’s grandmother on Saturday, and I never thought that we’d be one of those families whose Christmas gets touched with sadness, but here we are. And the difference is that she lived a long, full life and in many ways this is a GOOD thing. But as all of the family gathers together for the first Christmas in several years, it’s going to hurt to remember that she was that driving force that we used to gather around at the holiday time. And I think we will all be aching a bit and wishing just to see her sitting in the middle of the room by the tree.

    • Leanne Penny

      Prayers and Grace for you as you burry her today, as you do Christmas in the midst of this raw, fresh loss. May you find moments to laugh together, remember together and be together in the pain of your mutual void.

  • Mark Allman

    I don’t ever want the ache to really go away. I want the ache to stand as a testament to the love that we had. I agree with you so much that those tears and bouts of grief are respect for those we loved so dear. You honor your dad by your words here and the ache you fill in your heart. May all dads be loved like yours.

    • Leanne Penny

      Oh Mark, thank you. May they indeed.

  • Teresa Richardson

    This will be my 3rd Christmas without my daughter and my 2nd Christmas without my mom. The saddest part is that I have not been able to communicate in any way with my two grandsons since I learned about my daughter’s death. My son-in-law has cut ties with his parents and all of my family. I know they are somewhere in the San Francisco area, but that is all I know.

    • Leanne Penny

      Oh Teresa, I am so so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine the added pain that must bring to your loss. Praying for reconciliation there, hoping with you that God can heal the brokenness still awaiting him.

  • Evanna

    The 7th Birthday (Dec 24th) and Christmas without my Mom – one of the closest friends I ever had. It’s hard. And it hurts. So I stay too busy … do too much. Because to slow down would be to run into the pain all over again. God Bless you.

    • Leanne Penny

      May we both quiet and remember and let God sit with us in the place we’re so busy avoiding…

  • Addie Zierman

    Love you friend. So sorry for the empty ache this time of year and always.

    • Leanne Penny

      Love you too.

  • Louise Bates

    I’m so, so sorry. I wish I could give you a hug and bring you a coffee and we could sit and sip and weep together. My grandfather died two weeks ago. Yesterday I sat and stared at the Christmas card that would have been mailed to him and wondered how many years it will be before I stop buying an extra card for him. There are no words that ever take away the ache. Sending you heaps of love, friend.

    • Leanne Penny

      Oh Louise, I’m so sorry. Sending you love and grace right back as you move through this week with your family.

  • Jill –

    Ugh Leanne I was just wanting to shout, “YES HE SHOULD!” every time I read your “he should be…” lines. He SHOULD be here. It’s so very awful that he isn’t and I’m so very sorry he isn’t. Aching for the new earth with you today. xoxo

    • Leanne Penny

      Thank you friend, for your willingness to ache with me.