Christmas is typically my favorite time of the year. Even in my darkest days of grief, I could look at the lights on the tree, the years of memory ornaments and find some peace. 


This year has been so busy with so many boxes to be checked, I’m finding it hard to find that sense of peace.


Last weekend, I graduated with my doctorate. And I wish I could say I was excited about it. But in all honesty, it felt like I was just checking a box. Between my graduation, my son completing his college applications, and our home renovations ’m just not finding the peace of the season that I normally do.


I miss the peace of Christmas past. Even though the Christmases without Jared have been hard, I could find a sense of peace. A sense of calm. And this year, I’m lacking that. 


And I’m not even sure how to find it.


Maybe it’s because this is the last year my son will live at home. In the fall, he will head off to college. And if he gets an appointment to the military academy I will only have him for two weeks next December. And even though his permanent address will still be mine, everything is going to change. And I’m just not ready for it.


I loved our Christmases when we were a family of three. The joy. The laughter. The traditions. And I have loved our Christmases since I remarried. Blending our family while still holding true and honoring our Duff family traditions. And I’m afraid that next year it’s all going to be different.


And I think that fear is stealing my peace this Christmas season. 


I’m trying so hard to honor every tradition, capture every memory, freeze every moment of this Christmas that I’m losing the joy. Instead of just truly enjoying this last Christmas that my baby boy will live at home, I’m trying so hard to capture each moment that I’m losing the peace and joy of the season.


Instead of enjoying the season, I am just checking boxes.


And that needs to change. Not just for me but for my son. For my family. 


I thought after Jared died, I had learned to truly just enjoy every moment. Live for today. But this Christmas season, full of so many changes, has once again reminded me to find joy in the everyday. To stop and find the joy, the beauty, the gratitude in every moment. 


I think that is how I once again find the peace of the Christmas season.



Carla always knew she would be a widow but didn’t have any idea how it would actually feel. When Carla met her late husband Jared, he was waiting for a lung transplant due to Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic disease affecting the lungs and pancreas. So she knew that most likely someday she would say goodbye to her husband. But she never dreamt it would be exactly one week before their 14th wedding anniversary. In August 2014, Jared was diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection in his transplanted lung and was expected to survive at least 6 months if not a year. Instead, he died just 6 weeks later. And in the blink of an eye, Carla became a solo mom to their 10-year-old son. And even though her life was forever marked before and after, she was determined to live life to the fullest because her husband would expect no less.

She founded Breathing for Jared, a Foundation to provide college scholarships to those suffering from lung disease in honor of her late husband. Became a supporter of the CF Foundation and Donate Life. And discovered that writing out her emotions and fears on her blog Transplant Wife and Widow helped her to process her grief

Carla recently remarried and is now blending a family with her new husband, bonus daughter, and son.