Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. All conjure up thoughts of smiling, joyful, cheerful faces in a sea of glittery green and red as people bustle merrily about, gaily shopping, enjoying holiday parties and special music performances, all in preparation for the “big” day of receiving the perfect presents from their loved ones, then gorging themselves with a meal fit for a king. Then it’s on to glitzy apparel as people imbibe in the bubbly to celebrate the start of a new year.

Only we know there are many people who don’t have money for presents or regular food or even gas, if they have a car.

And there are others who might have all the material needs, but will be missing that special person who is no longer with them.

I fall into that last category. I never really understood that holidays could be anything but happy when there is a hole in your heart that no gift, no music, no meal can fill. I had no idea how hard it would be to push forward with life, muster up a smile when tears are near or try to maintain a positive attitude when things feel so negative inside.

But what’s the alternative? Curl up in a ball and ignore the world? Be grumpy and scowl at people? Have a continuous pity party all by your lonesome?

Trust me, I’ve done all of those at times since losing my dear husband. Emotions still run high during the holidays as we faced now our third Thanksgiving and Christmas and another year without him.

But Geoff wouldn’t want me to wallow in sorrow or be forever mourning him. He would probably say “It is what it is” and give me a gentle boost to move forward.

So we keep some of the old traditions and start new ones that might become as comfortable and familiar some day. My dear son and I spent time with my parents, his only grandparents, and his closest uncle and his family, and lots of my wonderful friends. We’ll say a toast to Geoff and shed a few tears and share a few hugs. And we’ll move forward and continue to live life.

I’m grateful Geoff had the foresight to plan well for my son and I. I’m thankful for devoted friends and family who wrapped their collective love around us, especially in those hardest few days and weeks and months. And I’m so appreciative for my loyal girlfriends who are still there for me.

Happy Holidays to all. Take a big breath, as the New Year is around the corner.