Holidays Without Our Parents

So,every adult child has to go through this at least once and some of us have to face it 4 or more times if you are married. It is the day you realize that you will not have a Mother or Father around for the holidays.That you are grown up and you have lost the one or two people in your life that you look up too.  This is the first full year after losing my Mother In Law and one of many years since Tom and I have both lost fathers. The Holidays feel different without them and we feel that we have lost the key to our holiday celebrations.

I think I was in shock last Thanksgiving.I do not even remember what we eat and even if we did  eat… some how I just blanked it all out from Oct 22nd to New Years day. I remember the tree and the kids opening gifts and making breakfast for my family but not much more. I was a stay at home mom then… what did I do for three months??

It seems that this fall the reminder of the loss is tangible. It is harder this year, I can’t call up and ask a questions about how to make stuffing, from the father who has been gone 25 years. The holiday craft making for Sunday School kids is just a distant memory. Christmas cookies and candy over flowing from my mother’s kitchen is no more and I wonder how we will continue as adults. Children suffer deeply with the loss of a grandparent or step grandparent,but I wonder if they feel the loss as long as the adults.The pain lingers for years as we share dinners, gifts and reminders that the person is gone. They are not replaced by thoughts of a new toy,an exciting movie or by the first boy friend or girl friend.

The reply to my heart-break most often is “make  your own memories and traditions” share them with the children. The logic seems to work until you realize how many of us do not have children or have only one.The family dynamic has changed and we don’t always have younger siblings or children share the traditions with.

In my case shopping at the mall is nothing compared to the years I spent making cookies with my mother in our kitchen.Tom still misses opening day of deer season with his Dad and Thanksgiving is not the same without having everyone together for dinner at his parents house. My husband and I still continue to share both of those traditions with our own children and try to pass down those memories to them so nothing is lost.

It is tough doing “Adult”sometimes.I guess we keep moving forward the best we can and at times just fall apart when we finally realize that times change and we can’t stop them.Loss is part of living and being a grown up is all we can do. As Dory says” Just Keep Swimming”.

I am finding it hard to be excited for the Holidays this year,even with the little ones around. I will do my best to make our home warm and inviting and we will have friends and family here.The kids will spend time together and we will eat well. But in my heart there will still be an empty chair at our table. I will spend a few minutes remembering and giving thanks for those we have been lucky to know and love,but Thanksgiving is going to be tough this year. empty-chair-at-thanksgiving


Categories: About me, childhood memories, Colorado, Family, grandma, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Holidays Without Our Parents

  1. I know people mean well, but there just aren’t any words or phrases that can soften loss or bring grief to a close. I wonder if one of the things that makes the holidays so hard is that we’re being told everywhere we turn and in all the advertising how we should feel at this time of year, and our feelings – and our lives – don’t always match the commercials. A lot of people struggle with that. Thanks for sharing what you’re dealing with – I’m sure many can relate. Thoughts with you & your family.


    • Faith, thanks for understanding. I think we all in some way feel a little lost when we can’t see or spend time with the people we have loved most. So it gets a little hard to feel like things are normal when trying to recreate pleasant times. I think it will get easier and I think maybe a change for the holidays may help. I may try to do something totally different next year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia Hughes

    I know how you feel. This is the first thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years without my husband of 40 years. He passed away on March5 of this year and I am lost without him. Besides the holidays, his birthday is right before Christmas too.
    It’s hard to be an adult when you have adult children too. Sometimes I can’t do adult so I just stop and think of years past and try to keep going on to a new day. It’s not always easy but it is all I can do.
    Hope you have a good holiday!


    • Hugs to you… we will some how get through it. I am not always sure how we carry on but we do. I just need time to think and remember just like you do. Then get up and move on.


  3. Christmas is hard for many people for those very reasons you mentioned. It doesn’t matter how many years our loved ones have been gone. They still leave a hole in our hearts at this time of year. Maybe it’s worse at Christmas because of the traditions and small habits that change with their passing. But it’s only one day and we’ll survive. Yes, – making our own traditions.


    • It seems here that Thanksgiving is actually the harder of the holidays it was really the only holiday that our whole family came together and it has been years since we had that I would like to do it again one year. It seems a little strange this year but I know things will get better

      Liked by 1 person

      • Time heals. I think there will always be things that trigger sweet memories and bring tears, but we wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on those things. It’s okay to have a little sniffle about good memories once in a while, and they get more bearable as time goes on.


      • I love this… I feel the same it will get better!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always lived apart from my parents and grandparents, so holidays were typically on my own. And when my ex-husband left (our children were 5, 4, and 9 months old) holidays became a bit more of a challenge. I think the best I can do to help support you this year is to share how I managed holidays and how I still do.

    Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday – I love baking pies and there is absolutely NO pressure to purchase what cannot be afforded. We have always made sure Thanksgiving was kept as ONLY Thanksgiving. No Christmas tree, no cookies, nothing that hinted of the December activities to come. Thanksgiving, for us, was just too wonderful on its own to combine it with anything else!

    One year, I made little Pilgrim caps, collars, and aprons for my daughters to wear. Those lasted a long time! We evolved a tradition of light snacks on Thanksgiving for obvious reasons. Snacks included a treasured ham ball recipe, meatballs in a grape jelly and chili sauce mix (sounds odd but it’s so good!), oyster crackers tossed with oil and Ranch dressing mix, cranberry ginger ale, and apple slices with caramel apple dip. Recipes available upon request!

    I always made at least four pies, even when it was just my youngest and I – it was our tradition!

    It was my maternal grandmother who taught me how to bake pies and it’s like she is with me each time I roll out the pastry. She’s there, with me, in the kitchen, in spirit. I even have her old rolling pin with green handles on display. I make her recipe for cottage cheese jello mold – a delicious lemon-lime jello filled to the brim with cottage cheese, crushed pineapple, and chopped pecans. She’s there when I serve that jello mold; I even remember it on her own dining room table.

    I have my paternal grandmother’s fine china, a Noritake pattern called, “Deerlodge”. Over the years, I’ve added pieces to her original collection. One of the first additions were a set of soup plates, purchased just prior to Thanksgiving. I wanted to try a new recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream and decided to celebrate the first serving of the soup that way. Oh, it was so nice to ladle the colorful soup in those bowls and drizzle a bit of cider-sour cream over the top! So, while Grandma isn’t there in person, she is definitely there in spirit!

    Grandma also loved etched crystal stemware. I have vintage etched crystal stemware, too, treasures found for next to nothing at Goodwill and thrift stores. Just this summer, my daughter visited and brought a box of – yep – etched crystal stemware she’d discovered at an antique store. Guess there’s a bit of Grandma in her as well!

    I cherish the memories I have of my grandmothers; their husbands died before my own parents married. I’ve shared stories of them with my children over the years, as well as the pie techniques and recipes they passed along. They are still with us in spirit.

    On those holidays where it would seem a bit empty, we used to invite others to join us and that made for a special occasion. One time, our Thanksgiving table seated five Army officers and their wives, all attending a class at Fort Eustis, Virginia. We’d asked each couple to bring a dish that meant “Thanksgiving” to them. We had rice dishes from Georgia and various different vegetable dishes, cheese straws from the South, and in combining our favorite traditions together, we created a pretty special holiday for all of us that year.

    As a single mom, the worst part of the holidays – Christmas and Easter – was filling stocking and hiding eggs. It never felt right doing it myself and I’m really glad I don’t have to do that any more.

    My children always helped prepare the special meals we’d serve, and even enjoyed getting out the fine china with great care! Little hands could mix fruit salad and arrange cookies for breakfast. As the children grew older, they took a greater part in food preparation and decorations. It was delightful.

    And this year, I’ll be sharing Thanksgiving with a friend and her extended family; she’s expecting between 25 and 29 people. I think I’ll be happily immersed in flour the day before, preparing a bunch of pies! My friend and her family will become my own family.

    Love always multiplies. You will always have enough love to share with those in your life. It’s not something that must somehow be divided and subdivided among more and more people. God always give us plenty of love to go around!

    So, share the love your relatives bestowed on you with others who would benefit from it. Keep that love flowing! Open your home and heart to others you love. Give yourself something to look forward to on that day. I know that my grandmothers would want me to do that and I would imagine yours would like that idea, too. No mom or grandmother wants their daughter or granddaughter to grieve – at least not too long! Sorrow lets us know how much we love them, how much we miss their presence. Talk to them as if they’re here, write them a letter. Consider what advice they would be giving to you right now.

    Turn the love you have for them into love you share with others, Love never dies. Love never ends. Love is eternal.


    • thank you so much for the letter of encouragement.I needed it and it is wonderful! I have been doing some planing and getting ready to get a few things made tomorrow. Our group will be smaller this year but I think I have plans to increase my dinner next year and bring friend in from far away so they may fill that empty chair and make the season even more memorable.


  5. It’s so hard to lose these people from our lives. I think of my dad in so many situations. While I’m working in the shop, eating, watching sports, even driving. They were such a strong force in our lives. I hope you enjoy the holidays, JoLynn. I think they would want you to carry on those traditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ellyn-Mae Friedman

    just beautiful..lost my Dad in 68 (born in charleston..1896) and Mother in ‘ 81 and husband 3 yrs ago 12/7////so it is very hard..thanks for the beautiful thoughts. ellyn mae g. friedman norfolk, va

    On Sun, Nov 20, 2016 at 8:11 PM, West Virginia Mountain Mama wrote:

    > jolynnpowers posted: “So,every adult child has to go through this at least > once and some of us have to face it 4 or more times if you are married. It > is the day you realize that you will not have a Mother or Father around for > the holidays.That you are grown up and you have los” >


  7. Jolynn, how was your Thanksgiving? I wanted to visit you at work in Elkins and give you a big hug! As for me, I spent the better part of the day in bed with an excruciatingly painful neck and shoulders. I slept most of the day away, and that’s okay! Friends brought over a plate of goodies in the evening and that was delightful! I celebrated the day in my own, albeit unusual, way.

    Liked by 1 person

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