Maybe is it the change of seasons, the holidays approaching, or the idea that things are even more different this year given the worldly circumstances, but lately I have found myself listening to sad songs and staring at pictures of happier times. Not because I’m not happy with where I am in my life right now, but because I am grieving the men in my life who still aren’t here.

Next month will be a year since my Dad has been gone, and for those of you who haven’t lost a parent or a spouse… or both in the same year (10/10 would not recommend), the holidays can be a real doozy. Last year, Christmas was only a week after Dad’s death, and not even 8 months since my sweet Luke had gone, and so I really didn’t want anything to do with Christmas or New Year’s. I put on the happy face for my family and friends, and I did the best I could to make sure my nieces and nephews still had a happy Aunt Jayme to give them thoughtful presents. All in all, I am pretty proud of how I handled that time last year. I could’ve fallen apart, and believe me, I wanted to, but I didn’t. I made the most of what was the worst holiday season ever.

This year, things couldn’t be more different. We are still in a worldwide pandemic, with the numbers in my area reaching now dangerous levels. Hospitals are nearing capacity, there is talk of another shutdown, and Thanksgiving is next week. I am also engaged to another man. This is our first holiday season together. We have joyfully put up Christmas decorations, watched classic movies, and talked about how we would like to spend the season together. All the while, I am seeing memories of two years ago, where Luke and I spent our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a married couple. I even picked up his Christmas stocking last week, cried, and placed it back safely in the storage bin. I kind of feel like I am playing that Whack-A-Mole game with life. Just when I think I have tackled one issue, another one pops up so fast I scream a little inside (okay…maybe outside).

I will always say that my buzzword for this chapter of my life is: Bittersweet. Grief does that… grief coats absolutely everything in bittersweet glitter. Sometimes, it can really be beautiful, and other times, impossible to get rid of. Just when you think you’ve got it all cleaned up, you find another corner of your life that looks like the bottom of a kindergarten craft container. Grief glitter is sprinkled absolutely everywhere in my life, and sometimes I find myself truly in awe of how much there is still left to be discovered. I know I will never clean it all up, and I wouldn’t want to. Sometimes, though, it can really throw a wrench in your plans.

I am proud of where I am in my life. There is no way you would’ve heard those words from my mouth last holiday season. I wasn’t proud of anything, and I sure as heck didn’t want to focus on gratitude. Everyone always goes around the table at Thanksgiving and lists what they are grateful for that year, and last year, the mere thought of that actually made me throw up. This year, I am grateful I don’t feel so sick over everything. I am grateful I have more happy memories and triggers than sad ones. I am grateful for my Chapter 2 and his family and new traditions, and I am grateful to be celebrating somewhat happily again. Most of all, I am grateful for growth.

Time, as we all know in the widow community, is ever so precious. You just don’t know when you will have your last Thanksgiving meal or put up your last Christmas tree. You don’t get to choose when the good Lord takes you home, and that is why even in a worldwide pandemic, I am choosing to be grateful for my bittersweet grief glitter and all of the mess that comes with it.

Make the most of this holiday season. If not for you, for your person (or persons).

Cheers, Luke and Dad. I miss you both.