Editors Note: Kaitlyn Baich has joined the South Georgia Today family, as our newest VSU intern. We are delighted to have her as part of the family, and we are certain you will enjoy reading her contributions.
The first Christmas without my dad was scary. It was one of the most nerve racking times I had experienced up to that age. I was only 10 years old when he passed away. By the time Christmas came around, he had only been gone about eight months, so his death was still very fresh in everyone’s mind and heart.
Prior to my dad’s passing, Christmas was always so exciting. He would set up a tiny Christmas village and had a ridiculous amount of houses and people to put in the village. We always got a tree that was a little too tall or a little too wide. We would hang a ton of ornaments, homemade and store bought (some that probably should have been thrown away) and we always made cookies and milk for Santa. Christmas morning with my mom and Dad was really special. We had so many decorations and our house always looked “Overly-Christmas-y.”
I struggled with my Dad not being there for Christmas that year and I missed putting the star on the tree while he held the ladder, as was our tradition. I missed helping him set up the Christmas village, and following his instructions on how to perfectly place every single thing. He would spend hours trying to figure out how to place each house to make sure everything could be plugged in the most ideal way. I never knew how to describe my first Christmas without him—until I got old enough to understand how grateful I was to have him for the little time that I did.
For Christmas that year, my mom and I decided we would have a small tree, about 4.5 feet, with ornaments to honor him. Family and friends came over and brought different ornaments for the tree. We told everyone to bring ornaments that reminded them of my dad. Some people brought soccer ball ornaments because he coached my soccer team, some brought Elvis and Gene Simmons ornaments, my grandma made ornaments with his photos on them. My uncles came to help set up the Christmas village, they found the perfect place for it and made sure we could get every last person and house out. They brought lumber and stands and we moved furniture around to fit it behind our couches. Everyone smiled and laughed. We were happy. Even though my dad was not there, in that moment we all realized we needed each other.
Most people would think after a family member passes away, the holidays are sad. For me, they were just different. I learned the association of sadness with losing a loved one doesn’t have to be that way. Focusing on the good aspects is what helped me the most after losing my dad. Surrounding myself with family and friends who knew and loved my dad helped me to cope with my loss.
In fact, that first Christmas without my dad was not only helpful for me in coping with my loss, but also the friends and family who where there with us.