Oh, the holidays.  I remember shopping at Costco last year in mid-September and I couldn’t believe that the artificial Christmas Trees and holiday lawn inflatables were already out and ready for sale. I thought to myself, “Can we just get through Halloween before we have to think about the holidays?”  A lot has changed in one year.  Now when I look at holiday decorations for sale in September, I want to find the store manager and scream in his or her face and ask them, “Do you realize how hard the holidays are going to be for me this year?”  Take your inflatable Santa Claus and shove it!

But I don’t.  I go about my business with that numb feeling I’ve had that takes over my body every time it hits me that he’s gone.  Sometimes it’s all I can do to pick one foot up in front of the other to walk forward.  I just want to take a sleeping pill the day before Thanksgiving and wake up on New Year’s Day.

Last week I attended a charity dinner for a non-profit organization called “Rooms of Hope.”  This organization raises money to design dream rooms for children with life-threatening illnesses.  I remember getting dressed a few hours before the event and feeling sad that the love of my life wasn’t right next to me, trying to hog the bathroom counter so he could get ready too.  I missed the fresh smell of his cologne permeating through the room.  I would always take him in my arms and just take it all in because there wasn’t one piece of him that I didn’t love like crazy.  When we’d get ready to go out for a night with friends, he’d turn up the music, pour me a cocktail and bring it up to me while I was putting my make up on.  I miss those little details of thoughtfulness and kindness; it’s always hard to believe those small things would fill such a large part of my heart as I continue to live my life without him.

I put on my happy face and went to the gala.  As we sat down for dinner, a video played that highlighted some of the children throughout the years, and their struggles to overcome illnesses such as leukemia, cystic fibrosis and other debilitative illnesses that make it difficult for them to live normal, everyday lives.  Just then it hit me:  Things could be so much worse.  My husband could have blacked out from his aneurysm while he was driving with the kids and they could have been severely injured or killed, or he could have severely injured someone else’s child.  I also think how much worse life could be if I had to witness one of my children suffer from a life-threatening illness.  I looked at my friend with tears, and I said to her at that moment, “Things could be a lot worse.”

Now don’t get me wrong;  There are many days when I think to myself, “Why the hell did this happen to me?  Why did this happen to him?  What the hell did we do to deserve such tragedy and sadness?  Why is life so unfair?”  I thought a lot about this after I got home.  In fact, I’ve been thinking about it all week.  Here I am trying to figure out how I’m going to endure the holidays when I have so much to celebrate and be thankful for.  I have two beautiful, thriving teenage boys are who healthy and who are happy.  I have two teenage stepchildren who are also thriving and are so incredible in every way.  As much as I feel like I want to punch a wall everyday, there is absolutely nothing I can do to bring him back.  NOTHING.  So why sulk, be angry and walk around sad all the time?  Why NOT be grateful for the amazing things in my life?  I feel like grief is one big, fat asshole and I refuse to give it the satisfaction that it won the battle with my emotions.

Instead of sulking about the holidays I’m going to make it a point to help others this season.  I’m going to donate my time to the local food banks, I’m going call the local children’s hospitals to see what they need to make the patients’ holidays a bit brighter; I’m going to reach out to local women’s shelters to see how I can help women or single moms who haven’t been fortunate enough to feel the love and admiration that I was lucky enough to feel from my husband.  I really do have so much to be thankful for and I want to share my joy with others.  It’s why I’m convinced that God takes the most special people early from our lives.  It truly teaches us to love harder, appreciate deeper and live a selfless life.

I’d love to hear from you too!  If you know of a family or an organization who is in need of volunteers, please let me know.  I am open to hearing about any charity, anywhere in the world.  I live in the San Francisco Bay Area so if it’s an organization where I can personally show up and help, that’s an even bigger bonus!  Help make my holiday and my family’s holiday the best it’s ever been by allowing us to help others.  I can’t wait to share the joy I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life.  Everybody deserves to love and be loved.  Even though it’s been a tough year, I could at least end it knowing I made a difference in someone else’s life.

So display that tree, hang those wreaths and inflate that Santa Claus in September!  I’m ready.