The loss of parents brings a particular kind of loneliness. An emotional backstop is removed. The world seems immense and empty. No matter what I did in life — no matter what trouble I had earned or caused — my mother would always take my side. I won’t be loved that way again.

People who have recently lost a parent — or a spouse, or a friend, or (God forbid) a child — are easily ambushed by sorrow at this time of year. Psychologists have a term for it: “holiday effects.” A smell, a taste, a quality of light can cause grief to come in little chilly blasts. Traditions and family celebrations can be cruel reminders of absence.

For me, the proper description is probably “poignancy.” My best Christmas memories are now tinged by loss — yellowed and aged at the edges. The image in my mind, probably from about age 7 or 8 — of snow outside the front window, of a green couch, of a tree with tinsel, of invincible protection and warmth — is so long ago and far away. There are now no Mom and Dad to come down the stairs to. The exile is permanent.