The death of a parent is an immeasurable blow that stays with us forever.

The past five Christmases have been a little quieter and the lights shine a little dimmer now that my Dad is gone.

Even now, I still can’t get my heart around the fact that I will never see him again.

The first few years I tried to distract myself by submerging myself with entertaining on the holidays.

It. Was. Freaking. Exhausting.

This year, our Christmas will be smaller. And it’s forcing me to deal head on with my grief.

This year for the first time in YEARS I listened to Christmas carols and made struffoli.

I cried a little, ok I cried a lot. But then something magical happened…I found joy.

I found joy in the memories of my Dad at Christmas.

As some of my struffoli began to burn I found laughter in thinking of my Dad laughing at my kitchen disaster. My Dad had a laugh that was infectious and a smile that could light up the whole room, and boy did he love to tease us. For a quick second I could HEAR him laughing with me.

As I poured the honey over my struffoli I found joy in knowing I successfully baked a traditional Italian dessert, one that my father loved and enjoyed pretty much every single Christmas until he could no longer do so.

You see, my Dad died unable to eat, and when my Dad lost his ability to eat a piece of me died forever.

He died from Stage IV base of the tongue cancer, he was living on a peg tube inserted in his belly and ALL of his meals were administered via his peg tube.

And I had anger, lots of anger.

Quite honestly, I still do. Let me cue in my inner child and say, “It’s not FAIR!!!!! Why my Dad!!!”

Fad diets piss me off.

I would have sold my soul to the Devil for my father to have just one taste of anything before he died.

Food is a comforting tool of nostalgia.

It’s why we love to overindulge at Christmas. It’s part of celebrating, and it reminds us of the good times with the people we love. And very slowly as I shed some of the layers of my angry grief I am able to remember the foods my father once loved.

It’s taken me years to get to this point, my grief is still messy, chaotic and complicated.

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my Dad or think of his endless suffering. But as my grief evolves I’m finding ways to celebrate his life. You won’t catch me doing a fad diet ever, but you will catch me baking his favorite desserts and smiling at the good times.

The magic of Christmas is slowly returning by sharing holiday traditions with my family and remembering the best of my father and sharing those memories.

The magic Christmas is slowly returning because no matter how sad I become I will always be forever thankful that I’m Al’s daughter and he will live on in my heart as my angel protecting me from Heaven.

“Pain can change you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad change. Take that pain and turn it into wisdom.” Unknown

This post originally appeared on: A Daughter’s Love