It’s meager in here tonight. The energy of the past few days – cleaning, cooking, planning – is gone. The people who filled the house earlier have left. The candles have been blown out. The food put away; the dishes washed. Dad has gone to bed, and I am here, my Christmas sock-clad feet propped on an ottoman. The party has ended.

I think people sometimes find peace in these moments, and I do feel a floating peace in the absence of all the activity. I had a good time, and I think other people did, too, and I take pleasure in that feeling.

But I also feel a loss, as I feel when anything ends. It’s not just loss that involves Mom’s death, although that too is here as it is in all things right now. Instead, it’s the loss I’ve felt all my life when something is over. I grieve even small things.

When I was a child, I cried every time I left my grandparents’ houses. Once, I remember backing out of my grandparent’s driveway in NJ and sobbing so hard in the back of the station wagon that I couldn’t stop waving even as we turned the corner and lost sight of them. At my college graduation, I was crying so intensely that my ever-balanced and stable roommate Laura had to tell me to “Stop crying, Andi. This is a happy day.” When, a few months later, I didn’t fulfill my plans to move to New York City and instead spent weeks crying on my parents’ couch in the basement, my dad came down and told me to “Stop crying and get on with my life.” Both Laura and Dad were right and wise.

Now, I cry at the end of most things – parties, semesters, relationships, really great movies. The difference between the way I cry now and the way I cried “then” (whenever “then” ended) is that now I know I will get past this time. I know the tears will end and life will continue. Yet still, I know it is important to cry. It is important to grieve, even the little things like the day I realize that fall is over and the trees are now bare and spindly. This grief opens me to feel again, to love again, to relish again.

So as I sit here with my “Up on the Woof Top” socks (they include a dog, so no, that’s not a typo), a pile of Christmas presents under tree, and the silence that seems so loud this evening, I let myself be sad. A tiny grief. A quiet moment. A few tears.

By Elaine Conneely by Elaine Conneely