After the death of a partner, that first Christmas without them comes around with a dark inevitability. Christmas is one of the most emotionally evocative times of the year. It holds memories of Christmas past with loved ones, but their absence can make the 25th December seem like a dreadful day of loss.


My heart goes out to those who are lost in grief on any day of the year, but at Christmas we feel it more acutely because it’s a time when families gather together. If you’re without your partner this Christmas, I hope you have supportive people around you.

I experienced tears and laughter on my first Christmas without my beloved husband Terry. My three adult children had come home to spend the holiday with me. I awoke very early on Christmas morning feeling deep sorrow and decided to get up and make a cup of tea, but my bedroom door handle was heavy when I turned it. I slowly opened the door and found that in the night my daughter Abbie had hung a beautiful velvet Christmas stocking on the handle. It was bulging with presents. I returned to bed and opened them like a child, while the rest of the household slept. Tears streamed down my face as I smiled with joy at the small, thoughtful gifts she had individually wrapped for me. It was a very touching start to the day. Later, we all shared in the cooking and traditional festivities of the day. We had always played games on Christmas afternoon and that year we played ‘Pictionary,’ laughing so loudly it was as if Terry were still with us. Mind you, if he had been, we wouldn’t have been playing ‘Pictionary’ because he hated it!

Each Christmas after that became a little less sorrowful, but I always planned ahead to be with my children wherever it was most convenient for them. We still love being together for Christmas Day.

There’s a well-known poem that I love by Mary Oliver called ‘Wild Geese.’ Mary Oliver has a way of loving the natural world and expressing human emotions through it in her poetry. It has a unifying force for us all. Here it is:


May the New Year of 2017 bring you peace and joy.

Wendy Dartnall’s memoir of love and loss, A Wind from the East, can be found at


It is also available from Balboa Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Readings, and independent book stores.


2 thoughts on “Your first Christmas alone

  1. Beautiful words Wendy! I’ve never met your Adam but Jeb and Abbie are an absolute credit to you! Both such thoughtful beautiful souls! Wishing you a joyful Christmas and a fulfilling New Year. With love Susie x


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