I'm sure it had more than a little to do with my overall state of mind. I'm happy. I've been happy for a while, and dealing with life (and death) is definitely easier when you feel so good. I've thought a bit about the difference this year and wonder how much of it can be attributed to my new relationship and how much is also the simple passage of time.
Daniel has been gone for 6 Christmases. On Christmas day I sat for a moment and thought about our first Christmas without him. It had only been 6 weeks. We spent the holiday at my house. My parents came to me, and we struggled through the weekend. I remember wanting to throw up throughout the opening of presents and trying desperately to keep it together so Grayson would have a good day. I remember sitting in my room for a moment and thinking I couldn't live through the day. My mom came in for a moment and she hugged me as I sobbed and I wasn't sure I could leave the room again without it being obvious to everyone else what a mess I was. Grayson asked me if we could call Daddy on his cell phone and tell him Merry Christmas. That question was a kick in the gut I wasn't sure I'd recover from.
The Christmases since then have been a roller coaster of emotion, but each one has been smoother. We don't miss him less each year, but the missing him has become more normal. I think the realization that I don't miss him less has made it easier for me to miss him and still lead a normal life. Missing him is a normal, usual part of our lives now. Every milestone has the "Daniel should be here" label attached to it, and although it still hurts, the hurt is a normal part of life now. He should be here. He isn't. It sucks. It is what it is.
He wouldn't want us to let his death color all things gray, so we don't. We enjoy life. It is the only way we can truly honor his memory. I enjoy life, because it is the only thing that makes sense to me. He would want it that way, and Grayson and I both need it that way. We are still here, and we still (hopefully) have lots of life ahead of us.
Looking back has been my habit for years, but I am beginning to find it not too awkward to look forward. I can see a future for me. It is different. But, as I've said before, different doesn't have to be bad. Different can be unexpectedly good.
Here's to a very different New Year. I think it's a toast I can drink to.