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Being a college student that has lost a parent is a strange thing. It can be hard for me to find people I can connect with about it––finding people who know what it’s like to go through losing their mom. That’s what this is because I found some hope in reading and connecting with stories like mine. I am telling my story on what it’s like going through the holidays after losing a parent in hopes that someone could read this and connect with my words and maybe feel less alone. My family celebrates Christmas and that is what I will be talking about because that’s the perspective that I have.

My mom absolutely adored Christmas and the holiday season. I really dont think it’s possible to describe her without talking about her almost insane obsession with Rudolph (yes, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer). A few years before she died, I tried to count all of the Rudolph decorations in our house and I lost count at around one hundred and I didn’t count the ones in the glass cabinet in our living room that stayed up year round. Every year, I would buy her that year’s Hallmark Edition Rudolph ornament and it was her favorite gift every single year. She had so many traditions: pizza on Christmas Eve and opening one or two gifts, putting up the homemade stocking that she made me and my brothers, and having a huge dinner on Christmas Day. But, that first December without her, I fell apart in some ways.

I did something that I know not all people would; I did everything and put every ounce of effort into planning and decorating for Christmas that my mom would have. I put up every Rudolph ornament and I planned out a Christmas with my family that would have made my mother proud. But, something happened that I didn’t expect. The entire holiday, I couldn’t get over this feeling that I had. The best way I can describe it is when you are about to leave your home and you are standing in the doorway knowing that you forgot something but you don’t know what. I am not saying that I forgot about my mom, but it just felt wrong.

The second Christmas was when things changed a lot and that feeling got so much worse that I didn’t know what Christmas was to me anymore. In October of 2019, 13 months after my mom died, my Dad got remarried to who is now my step mother. I have two half brothers who I share a mom with, and when my father remarried, I got two older step sisters. I do care about my new family, but Christmas is still very hard for me.

Their first Christmas as a married couple, my father allowed me to put up one Rudolph thing and they bought new Christmas decorations and they introduced their new traditions that looked nothing like my mom’s. I remember sitting in the living room on Christmas surrounded by my new family and my brother’s. I remember my brother touching my shoulder asking, “Does this feel like Christmas to you?” It didn’t and I realized that I had no idea what Christmas was without my Rudolph-obsessed Mom.

I am still learning; it’s December of 2021 and I am about to go into my fourth Christmas without my mom. I have Rudolph ornaments covering my tree and the back of my couch is covered in Rudolph stuffed animals. I still see a Rudolph ornament in a store and have that thought “oh, i should buy this for mom” and then I stand there usually for five minutes choking back tears. It’s tough, but I am figuring it out and I hope anyone reading this figures it out too.

Happy Holidays and remember that it does get easier.

Hi! My name is Calista Smude and I am a Communication and Literature teaching major with a creative writing minor at Winona State University. I am technically a sophomore but I already have my AA degree. After college, my plan is to teach highschool English and try to get some of the things I write published. In my free time, I am usually reading or writing something interesting, but I also spend a lot of time watching TV, playing video games and spending time with family, friends, and my six year old grey tabby named Ellie!
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