I cannot get into the Christmas season and it frightens me. There are six days left and I am nowhere near the level of cheerfulness and brightness that I normally aspire to. The tree does not seem as decadent this year. Hot chocolate at Starbucks just is not doing it for me anymore.  I am practically hurling myself around the house, looking under cushions and random junk to see if the season is hiding on me. But regardless of if my heart isn't feeling its usual holiday self, I am taking a step back to see that it's ok.

A lot of people are having a heard time this holiday season. The economy is disabling people while breaking hearts and dreams. More people are sick, more accidents are happening, more people are passing away. I think it is even more difficult to lose someone during the holiday season because their absence becomes so present.

They are not at the front of the table where they used to sit. They are not laughing wildly at the grown up table or leading the game of football with the family.

Losing someone, during this season that is so invested with friends and family, is by far the hardest thing.

A great friend of mine interrupted a rant session a few of us were having right before finals began to tell us that a man that she knew from home was dying. He probably would not live until Christmas. He would leave behind four little boys and a wife that loved him very much. I sat there with a rock in the pit of my stomach as she told me this. I imagined what it would be like to lose someone so close to me during this time of the year, or any time of the year for that matter.

Unfortunately, of all the things they can sell in stores to supposedly make our Christmas season a better one--  the brightest lights for the tree, the hottest toys under the tree, the most delectable desserts for the party-- the stores can do nothing to aid the gaping hole of a loved one lost at Christmastime. You won't find the relief on Ebay, in the Target $1 aisle or at the Christmas tree farm. It is not lurking around anywhere. It is not 50% off.

Perhaps that is why it hurts so bad. Here is the season where we simply find happiness. All the things that money can buy submerge us in the sugar coma state of the most wonderful time of the year. But the market cannot materialize the loss of a loved one.

So we must.

We must make the choice to make those who are missing this Christmas reappear and be more real than ever. We must bring out the memories we have with this person, scatter them on the big dinner table, pick up each one, talk about it, laugh about it and then settle it into our souls for safe keeping.

Keep in mind what they loved the most, carry on those traditions. It is not the same. It never will be.  But it is the way they would have wanted it. Picture them looking down and smiling because they know you are moving forward and trying your hardest.

The Christmas after my grandma passed away was definitely the hardest one yet. I cried a few times through the Christmas Eve festivities and I just thought it was not fair. But my tears would not make her anymore real. I had to make her real. So I said a Christmas prayer, I proceeded downstairs to rejoin the chaos and I dared to bring her into every part of that Christmas. We laughed, we reminisced and ultimately, we thanked the heavens that she had once been there to make this season so special to us.

It is never an easy thing. It is always a hard thing. But with the support and love of friends and family who are near and dear to us, we somehow find the way to make it bearable.

So today I will pull out the photo albums and old scrapbooks and attempt to find the Christmas joy. It is not in the stores or under my tree. It is in the memories that have already been made with the ones, past and present, that have made me who I am.

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." --Kahlil Gibran

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