My father passed away the week before Thanksgiving in 2017. The time since has had its expected ups and downs, but one thing I wasn't prepared for was all the "first ________ without Dad". First Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first Mom birthday, etc. This came to me as I was writing out a birthday card for my mom's March birthday. Her first birthday after 50+ years of marriage without my father. This got me thinking about all the firsts to come in this new year. I could look at them with dread and an expectation of sadness, but I'm choosing to do something else. I'm going to take each event as an opportunity to include my Dad through reflection on past experiences with him during holidays, birthdays and other family gatherings. Those times are strong in my memory and bring a smile to my face. They will keep him present and help to detract from the sadness I'm sure will be present, but maybe not as strongly through this way of thinking.
The death of a loved one, or even a family pet, is a traumatic time, leading to many "first ______ without" moments, but having this experience myself, I'm now realizing there are other moments in life like this too. Rather than acknowledge the loss, which only complicates things, I'm choosing to use the loss as a remembrance that brings joy.