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It's that holiday season. Again.

Now that Halloween is over, it seems that the end of the year holidays are clamoring for attention. Our stores were filled with Christmas paraphernalia before the Halloween candy and costumes even managed to walk off the shelves.  Everyone complains about it but it doesn't seem to change the mind of marketers. It only seems to spur them on. 
I've been ambivalent about the holiday marketing onslaught for years. It seems that the focus for these holidays moves a little bit more towards conspicuous consumption and away from the true Reason for the Season. For almost 10 years, Roger and I have been gradually paring down our holiday gift giving. Our "gift" to friends and family has been a donation to a worthy organization in lieu of presents, sometimes accompanied by a symbolic token representing the organization. The first year, we donated to Habitat for Humanity and made simple but artsy pictures frames out of hardware materials (washers,bolts, and nails).  Another year, everyone got a mix CD of our favorite holiday tunes and a donation to the ASPCA. 
The CD cover featured pictures of our favorite animals.  Another year we gave a gift to the food bank and we made homemade cookies, cocoa mixes, and other yummy treats to accompany the donation.  We hope and expect that others will do the same for us.  Fortunately, many of our family members and friends have followed suit.  I don't need much. In fact, I'm going to work diligently during my holiday break to purge some of the extra stuff that has been accumulating in my home.    

Aside from the material pressures of the season, this time of year brings a host of other challenges that have me on edge. I have felt the heaviness creeping in over the last month and yesterday it hit, full force. Since we lost Charlotte, all holidays carry with them some element of loss. Each special day spent without my daughter is a constant reminder of what was and what will never be again. I think of past celebrations with melancholy. I watch others celebrate with their children and I am full of jealousy. It is so hard to fight those feelings.  

Grief smacked me on the head yesterday as I walked through Costco, just stopping in to pick up apples, bananas, and bread. What also grabbed my attention was the holiday "stuff". Toys that I would never buy for my daughter. Beautiful dresses that she would never wear to another holiday party. Children gazing with wide eyes over the selection of items awaiting their Christmas list. Parents agonizing over whether to buy the 500 piece erector set or the 50-piece special edition Mr. Potato Head. These are choices that I no longer make. It hurts my heart. 

It's because of these feelings that I have a hard time getting into the holiday spirit. I have no desire to decorate my home. I hesitate when I receive holiday party invitations. Even if I had the budget, holiday gift giving wouldn't interest me. Holidays without Charlotte still feel empty and wrong. 

Combine those feelings with the memories of our actual events at this time of year in 2009 and you get a glorified Tsunami of Tsadness.  On this day two years ago, we heard the worst news imaginable. On November 6th, 2009 we learned the horrible truth: medical science had failed us. We had no choice but to make Charlotte comfortable and watch her die. Even now, typing those words, I cringe as I realize that truth. 

In the two months that followed, our community did everything possible to fill her short life with amazing experiences. I cherish those memories and I think of them frequently. I don't regret a single choice.

I know that there are ways to use my grief as a force for good. I suppose that I could spend the money I would reserve for Charlotte's gifts and provide a local child in need with holiday cheer.  I could decorate the house in her spirit, using the pink tree and her favorite decorations. Someday I will be ready for that. Not this year. I have not yet reached the point where giving and celebrating feels better than grief. 

I still find moments of happiness and it definitely feels good to laugh. It also feels necessary to embrace the grief. Please remember that although this season is full of joy, it also brings pain to many people. If I don't send you a holiday card or gift, please do not be offended. If I seem a little unenthused about ensuing celebrations, please understand I'm not a Scrooge. Don't mind the leaking. It's going to be there. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it's cathartic. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Let the holiday season begin.  

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