Grief Doesn’t Wear a Watch

JeanneDad 1

We walked into the hotel lobby last night to find it all decked out in its Christmas finery. As we walked past the brightly-lit tree on our way to the elevator, I felt something I’ve not felt in I don’t know how long – Christmas spirit. It’s been twelve years since my daddy died – his side of the family is bad to die during the holidays, and that’s why what little decorating I do now, I do it outside so I can see it, but only from afar.

This past year, I’ve allowed myself to grieve for Daddy and others, to grieve things that I cannot attach a noun to. Instead of trying to outrun the grief, instead of brushing it aside or turning away from it, I sat with it. I went to bed with it. To paraphrase Naomi Shihab Nye, I spoke to it till my voice caught the threads and I could see how big the cloth is. I’m not done yet, and I miss him now just as much today as I have every day of every year since.


That’s me there in Daddy’s arms – I’m the one wriggling my way out of his lap.
Oh what I wouldn’t give for a do-over right about now.

I talk to him, you know. Write him letters, cry on his shoulder, try my best to remember the way it felt to have his arms wrapped around me. Sometimes he would hug me so hard, he’d bite his lower lip from the effort. With Daddy’s arms around me, I could be both vulnerable and invincible, knowing I was loved and protected and supported. I like to think he still does that – still loves me, protects me, supports me, though I try not to pester him with requests for assistance too much because it’s clear from the dreams I’ve had that he is quite content in his new life.

I know you pretty much read only train magazines, Daddy, but if you happen to look over my shoulder and catch my blog, know this: you still own real estate on my heart. And that hole in my heart? It’s packed with stories and smiles and love like you wouldn’t believe.


  1. Jane Cunningham

    oh honey this just cracked me wide open… bless your Daddy for loving you so richly, for pouring so much love into his little girl so that she could shine bright enough for the light to reach all the way around the world…

    • whollyjeanne

      Sugar, when it came to daddies, I sure got in the right line. I love you.

  2. Merry ME

    Been trying not to think about holidays devoid of parents. Not sure how to find the “spirit.” But I caught a glimpse of it, standing in the middle of a tree farm, smelling the perfect Christmas smell. I think I’m going to find what I need in the small things.

    • whollyjeanne

      Me and thee, Sugar. Me and thee. xoxo

  3. Rita Chand

    I love this so much. My dad died 12 years ago too an the holidays are always a tough time…you just never know when it’ll hit you or how long it’ll last. I am often grateful for it..after it happens…just means I will never forget him. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      Rita, I just consider grief a new way of loving – perhaps even a deeper way of loving. I’ll be thinking about you during the holidays, and sending hugs – probably teary hugs, but you know . . .

  4. Artemis Retreats

    as I struggle with losing my love’s father 2.5 weeks ago, I was afraid to read this post. It is all so much at times and yet the overwhelming feeling of love I feel is astounding. Thank you Jeanne for weaving words and filling up the spaces in my soul.

    • whollyjeanne

      Oh Sugar, I know just when you write of it being so much. Like I told Rita Chand, once I stopped (futilely) trying to outrun grief, I discover that it is a different way to love and often, a deeper way to love. Holding you and yours closing during this holiday season. Let the teardrops decorate your tree. I love you.

  5. Brenda Lynch

    Hang in there–This is my first Christmas in awhile to have that illusive “Christmas Spirit”–We (if things don’t change) will celebrate with my sweet Daddy , and as I watch him age know that the day may come that we don’t have him here, I have the same kind of Daddy that you had–and I am still his little girl. I miss my Mama so, I can’t even imagine them both being gone–funny as we grow older ourselves we seem to understand that so much more–I will think of you during these days my friend and also share a heartache with you and then hopefully we will smile and enjoy the days we have left with the ones we love! Have a wonderful Christmas my friend!

    • whollyjeanne

      Aren’t we lucky, Sugar, to have daddies like ours? I’m sure you’ll do this, but I’m saying it anyway . . . I want you to squeeze every smidgeon of goodness out of this holiday season. Maybe even ask your daddy some questions about Christmases past – and anything else you can think of, anything that comes up – and record the conversations. If you’re like me, it’ll be years before you can bear to hear his voice again (I haven’t yet been able to), but just knowing it’s there, is comforting. I will think about you throughout this season, and look forward to sharing it with you via emails and fb posts and photos. You are such a dear friend.

  6. Tracy Mangold

    I wish I knew this kind of love. How blessed to have such dear wonderful memories of your father such as this. You brought tears to my eyes. Hugs and love to you.

    • whollyjeanne

      I wish you had known this kind of love, too, Sugar. I grieve for all the children who didn’t have this kind of daddy. Don’t get me wrong: my daddy wasn’t perfect, maybe I could say he was perfect in his imperfections. I don’t know – I’m with my mother, and though I love her, too, it’s hard to think and write about such things when she’s nearby. I just know that he never abused me and that he flat-out loved me. Love to you, too, Sugar.

  7. Daniel Hayes

    What an amazing legacy to leave. I hope my son and daughter will be able to recall me half as fondly as you do your father. If they do, I will have been an absolute success in life. He must have been an incredible man.

    • whollyjeanne

      There’s much I want to say in response to your comment – thank you for taking the time – I feel another blog post coming on. Daddy wasn’t perfect, but there was never any doubt that he flatout loved me, even in my imperfections (I was a teenager once, you know), and that makes all the difference. Do I fall prey to doing what so many others do and make him something in death he was not in life? I try hard not to. I love how you consider the way your children remember you as a measure of success. I think I finally get it: grief is another way to love, another lens through which to remember.

  8. Sandi Amorim

    I’ve yet to lose a parent, but when my father-in-law passed away a couple of years ago I was startled by the depth of my grief. His legacy was his belief that you should do whatever it takes to pursue your passions. And as I write this, tears appear to remind me of why I loved him and the difference he made in my life.

  9. Karen Caterson

    I’m so glad that Christmas sprit found you this year – and so, so glad that you share your “stories and smiles” – and your Daddy – with us (I feel like I know him a bit through your writing – and YOU a bit more through your stories of him).

  10. angelakelsey

    Thank you for articulating these things. You write beautifully about these things you “can’t attach nouns to.” What a gift for us, your readers and friends. xo

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