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The Holidays are often fraught with challenges. What to buy, how much to spend, what not to spend, who to spend what on, who to spend time with on what days, travel, traffic, cooking, cleaning, wrapping…It’s known to be a stressful and exasperating time.

And, quite honestly, I never understood why people were so stressed and grumpy around the holidays. I always loved the bustle and gathering with as many family and friends as could fit in one place at one time.

But, this year. This year is different. I am fresh in the grief of losing our daughter. I have no desire to celebrate the holidays without my child. Every light, every decoration, every holiday gathering is a stabbing reminder to my heart that my sweet girl is not here.

And, for the first time, I feel like that “grumpy” holiday person, watching everyone around me enjoy the bustle and looking forward to large gatherings while I cringe at the thought of it. It is a strange feeling, a strange place I am in.

I am struggling between two things. It’s like having the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other shoulder. The devil on my shoulder makes me want to be angry. He makes me want to say there is no God and that I have NOTHING to be thankful about.

But, the angel on my shoulder reminds me that I know that there is a God, one I don’t always see eye to eye with, but God exists. He reminds me that I know that I have a plethora of things in this life for which to be thankful.

But these two on my shoulder are in constant conflict, making me a bit of a basket case. It appears, that this holiday season anyway, I will be that stressed out, slightly bah-humbugy person that I never understood from years prior.

Even though it may not be apparent from the outside looking in or even from my own perspective when that devil sits on my shoulder, but, I know, with my whole heart, that I am lucky.

I have had what few get to have in life. I have experienced pure joy, endless love and miracles on earth. I have been surrounded by the most loving, gracious and genuine people the world could offer. Two of which are my parents, and two of which are women who consider me a daughter of their hearts. There is no end to the love here on earth, for my sweet girl, or us, her parents.

So, though this holiday season will bring me pain that cuts to my core, I will be saved by what has kept me going since my sweet girl died. I will be saved by Love. Simply, LOVE. Nothing is stronger than love. Love guides, strengthens, lights, heals and steadfastly leads Hope and Faith along every path. It is the one thing that connects Heaven and Earth.

So, if you see me cry or if you see me quiet and withdrawn this holiday, know that I know the wonders of the holidays and every day of the year for that matter. In fact, I will most likely be reflecting on those wonders when you see me. Know that love is the only thing I need to push though the pain that grips me tightly. It is the only thing that wins out when the angel and devil battle on my shoulders.

This holiday season, I may not act so merry and bright, but I will love with every fiber of my being and I will welcome the love given with every breath I take. The holidays will have ups and downs with my grief, but these things I will not take for granted.