10TV's Tracy Townsend discusses navigating the holidays after the passing of her father.
This holiday season will be a first in our family - the first since the passing of my father, Percy Townsend. We lost our hero and role model in June and in the ensuing weeks and months my three siblings and I have been muddling through, mostly worried about our mother.
Family and good friends continue to offer encouragement and comfort on this journey. Many have talked with us about the grief process and its ups and downs. They have also warned us about the challenges we'll face during the "first" holidays, birthdays and other occasions without Dad.
It would be one thing to take this on if it was just me going through this with my husband. Instead, we are not alone in our grief because our children experienced the loss, too. I am without question (or embarrassment) a "Daddy's Girl." Ian is the only grandson and my dad absolutely doted on him. Ian and I often talk about how Granddaddy would tell him, "You can celebrate Christmas, but with me, every day is Christmas." As you can imagine, Ian took that statement to heart. He and my dad would spend hours at a certain big-box toy store. My dad would even tell Ian not to worry about my approval of their purchases.
To be fair, my dad didn't dote without reason. He encouraged Ian to work hard in school and to carry himself with pride. Since my father's passing, Ian will sometimes remind me of how much he enjoyed conversations with his grandfather. While I have worried about how he is handling the loss, he continues to prove his resilience: talking about his grandfather, checking on his grandmother and some days sharing with me that he's had a sad moment.
Looking ahead to those occasions where we'll really feel my dad's absence, I have been doing some research and talking with experts about the possibilities of what's ahead. The holidays are most certainly a happy time but for those of us who are also mourning, the experts say we should recognize and share with our children that participating in some activities without our loved one will be tough. It will come down to learning how to experience holiday parties, Christmas Day, etc., in a new way. The website hospiceheart.org offers suggestions including a visit to the cemetery or spending part of the day helping other people.
One of my fondest memories of my father is his parenting advice. It was sort of unorthodox, definitely brusque and reflective of his time in the U.S. Army. Ian was a chatty child right from the start - even before he could form words. As I lamented this constant talking, my dad said to me, "Let him talk. Don't you ever ignore what he is saying because one day he won't talk to you…and besides, you could even learn a thing or two."
Wise words from the wisest man I've known. I've been so worried about helping Ian through my father's death, I had forgotten about myself. As it turns out, my middle schooler may have had it right all along. Some of the best advice on grieving at this time of year is to talk about your loved ones, to remember the time you shared and to take steps to create memories.
-Tracy Townsend is a news reporter and anchor with 10TV News HD.