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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

I find it odd that I still can't write about the holidays. Normally it's really easy to blog but I'm finding I don't know what to say. The holidays are bittersweet, as I expected them to be.

So here I am, facing the electronic equivalent of a "blank sheet of paper" and we're staring each other down.

In many ways the holidays were about retracing my steps. My husband was estranged from his mother for very good reasons – she's a bully and had done some very very cruel things over the years.eventually things got to the point where he had to make a hobsons kind of choice: accept interference (damaging) or stand his ground and protect his family from hurtful influences. He chose the latter. As a result, we hadn't set foot in my mother-in-law's home in six years.

I tried to mend fences by going to the family Christmas Eve celebration. Ultimately, That proved to be a mistake. My mother-in-law was up to her old tricks, one of which was to be "seen" doing things, rather than simply doing a kind gesture in the background. This time it wasn't a kind gesture, but A cruel one: in the midst of opening presents with my son and my stepdaughter by my side, she walked over and in front of the family, handed an envelope of "pictures" that I might not have.

Of course I looked, only to see my husband's face staring back at me from one of our wedding photos.she also included out wedding invitation. Of course I cried, but it was as much about rage as tears. My son and stepdaughter saw the pictures and were crying with me. My fury was on their behalf.

What kind of wAckadoodle thinks that it's okay to give a grieving widow wedding pictures of her husband in the middle of what is supposed to be a Christmas celebration??? She was being a bully, plain and simple.

I'm at a loss for what was going through her mind at the time, and frankly I simply don't care anymore. A dear friend reminded me that I don't need her, that she needs me. I will be thinking long and hard about whether my son and I can afford this kind of toxic relationship and our grief.

I'm always struck by how moments like that are set sharp relief by the kindness of others. My family celebration was one of thoughtful remembrance, because my parents love John like a son, and grieved his loss like one. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were the most kind and sweet of hosts, taking care of us during our visit and including us in some wonderful Christmas celebrations.

New Year's was spent with friends at a really fun party, where we had a wonderful time playing games, enjoying the new year, and remembering John at moments. We ushered in the new year with a sense of relief and hope as well as grief – how could we not?

I don't know what 2015 will be bringing to us – but I know that 2014 has seared itself in our memories.

The pain is still raw, but fading; powerful, but becoming tolerable. The memories are shredding not to cut like knives but bring a tiny bit of comfort along with pain.

My son and I are turning towards 2015 forever changed, but committed to forging a
New life composed bits of the old and the new in a new mosaic.

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