Last year broke my heart. Over and over and over again.

Happy days were even harder to find in the second year of the pandemic than they were in the first.

What is the word for getting knocked back down the second you find the strength to get up? That was 2021.

It was the first full calendar year without my grandmother, my Baa. She was the kind of gradmother that fiction stories try so hard to bring to life. She was Christmas all year long (literally, her front room is decorated every day of the year with reindeer); she was four different conversations happening at the same time, board games and cards until way after bed time, the very best movies you’ve never heard of, and the warmest hugs … the kind of hugs you don’t realize you really need until you’re melting into your grandmother’s arms. We lost her suddenly in 2020, a few months after my wedding, where she danced the night away for the last time.

There are some pieces of last year I can write about because it’s helpful to put them down on paper instead of carrying them around in my aching heart; there are some parts of last year that I can’t even admit to myself that they really happened. It was a year-long heartbreak, and I am tired of stitching myself back together. Do they even make that much thread?

One thing I know for sure: my husband and I found a way through it all and became even closer friends, even stronger teammates, and an even more joyful little family because of it all. Even when we learned we might not be able to grow our little unit beyond the two of us and our pups without lots of outside help … even when we tried and lost two almost babies back to back, just before the holidays … even then, somehow we loved each other a little harder, laughed a little wilder, and held each other a little longer.

The silver lining for me from 2021: I discovered that when love is true, it really can rise above it all.

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