Miss 14 has been asking for weeks to put up the Christmas tree. She has even moved the foosball table to make room for our 7-year-old KMart faux tannenbaum with fibre optic lights that mostly work.

"It's not even December yet. Let's wait," I tell her.

This prompts a discussion about how much she loves Christmas, and how much I don't. Miss 14 started a countdown calendar at 133 days. Nearly every morning, she sings out, "80 days until Christmas… 44 days until Christmas…" and today, 26 days.

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I have shopping yet to do. Holiday plans to make. Cards not to send (I gave up mailing dozens of Christmas cards after moving overseas). Gingerbread to make and eat. And eat and repeat.

My excitement is knowing the grandparents arrive from America in 23 sleeps.

There's nothing that quite puts the bah in my humbug like what appears to be silly season satisfaction of most of the rest of the world.

Yes, I love spending time with friends and family; I love barbecues and beach walks; I love seeing my children open presents Christmas morning, watching their eyes widen if not with surprise, with acknowledgement they got what they wanted.

I'm grateful playing Santa Claus is an option when so many families in our community struggle to buy food.

Those of us who've lost a loved one, in my case, a spouse, often divide holidays into Before and After.

It's been almost nine years since Sean, my husband and the children's father, died. Shouldn't you be past that by now?" asked my dad when I told him Christmas provides another sad reminder my loved one is gone.

Nope. Not over it. Never will be. You'll understand if you've been there - grief has no timeline. It's as infinite as love. If you never stop loving your person, you never stop mourning them, either. The idea makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

Plus, Misfortune lost her punch card. There's no one at Mission Control saying, "Joe Bloggs has been through enough. Let's spare him further crap. Take him off the list for cancer and other serious health issues; deaths of anyone else he's close to; the death of a relationship... Joe's done his time on Planet Grief."

My kids' preschool teacher used to say, "You get what you get and you don't get upset." I'd change the last part to, "You DO get upset, and you keep moving." Life's hurdles are relentless. We're resilient, but wouldn't we be even more so if our person were still here?

Black armbands for the bereaved fell out of fashion in the early 20th century. Pity. While, as my friend Becky says, so many of us are "dancing in the magic of the season," it would be nice to know who's trudging through the swamp of sorrow, even intermittently.

We don't need a fix for sadness; sometimes a hug helps. We don't need to hear "time heals all wounds" because that cliché is often interpreted as time cures all wounds.

Grief has its own rate of decay. It's not a repair project, and doesn't give a flying fig about order, or stages. It's not like building a shed. The House of Mended Misery can be meticulously constructed according to plan and still fall apart when you least expect.

Even psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, credited with developing five stages of grief in the 1960s, has said stages were meant to apply to patients diagnosed with terminal illness, not people dealing with a loved one's death. Psychologists today say we don't process grief in lock-step. Modern mourning resembles the old Burger King "Have it Your Way" slogan, minus links to the Whopper, onion rings and saturated fat.

We'll likely put up our Christmas tree this weekend, before Miss 14 explodes with unfulfilled holiday decorating desire.

I'll open the box of ornaments I see once a year and hold reminders of a beautiful past with no present or future: mementos of "First Christmas Together"; a bride and groom; and "First Baby". I might cry. I might not. If I shed tears, I'll remember they're a bridge to Sean, who lives only in memory and in a nanoscopic world whose principle states matter can neither be created nor destroyed.

Or he's hanging out at our old house in Spokane, Washington and no one has bothered to tell me. It would be his heaven, if we were with him.

One of my new favourite days is Boxing Day. I'll exhale because the frenzy, anticipation and sadness about not feeling as happy as I perceive everyone else to be is done. Twenty-seven sleeps until Boxing Day.

I hope to dance this December, if not in the magic of the season, in the blessings of friends and family who understand what it means to be broken, and what it means to heal.