Bundoo’s Twelve Days of Christmas: Missing my father-in-law at Christmas

Twinkling lights, joyful songs, shiny presents all wrapped up in a bow—these are all the clichéd happy images that should come to mind when we think about Christmas. But what about when Christmas suddenly becomes a reminder of grief, pain, and loss? The lights don’t shine as bright, the songs don’t sound quite as merry, and the gifts seem dull and rather pointless. How do you get through Christmastime when holiday memories are tangled in sadness?

This Christmas will be my family’s first without my father-in-law. He passed away last year the week after Christmas, following seven brave years battling cancer. Although deep down we all knew the day would come, no one was prepared for the devastating void his death would leave.  At no time will the void be more sharply felt than at Christmas.

It’s funny how tragedies can make you view things in a whole new way. Like Christmas. What used to be so simple and fun has now become complicated and painful. I think it’s easy to become jaded during the holidays after a loss. But having a young child at home, I have to be careful that I don’t let cynicism and negativity rub off on her. I want Christmas to stay magical and joyful and wonderful for her for as long as possible. This year, for the sake of my daughter, my challenge is to stay positive at Christmas in the midst of sorrow.

Since my father-in-law’s death, Christmas has become a weird reminder that life keeps moving forward no matter what. I like to think of Christmas this year as an affirmation of strength. For those who have experienced loss, you’ve made it this far. You’ve picked yourself up day after day, one foot in front of the other and somehow managed to survive another year despite your grief. And that is no easy feat.

This Christmas will also be a time to celebrate happy memories of my father-in-law. I can’t imagine the holiday without him, but I am thankful for the memories of him that I have. My heart breaks that my daughter will not grow up knowing the wonderful man who was her Grandpa, but I will do my best to pass along treasured memories. I think Christmas is one special time to share them with her.

Finally, even more than ever, this Christmas I will cherish my loved ones with a greater appreciation. I will hug my husband just a little tighter and hold my daughter just a little closer. And I will try to see Christmas through my daughter’s eyes—the twinkling lights, the happy songs, the shiny presents—and hold on to the joy of Christmas.

About Cara Barthelette, Bundoo Pediatric Speech Therapist

Cara Barthelette, CCC/SLP, is the Bundoo Speech Therapist


  1. Thanks for sharing Cara, this was such a sweet read. The change will definitely be hard, but like you said, the impetus to be thankful for your family is a wonderful gift. I hope you have a nice Christmas!


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