It's little surprise the holiday season comes at the end of the year. That's when we need it most. After 12 tough months, we have to reboot. And these last 12 months have been brutal in many ways.

The headlines of 2014 hammered us relentlessly, most recently with the ambush killings of two police officers in Brooklyn, reminding us of the horrors that can befall us and the horrors we inflict on ourselves.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared over the Indian Ocean, and Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine shot down another Malaysia Airlines jet. Ebola killed thousands in West Africa, and Boko Haram killed thousands in Nigeria. The Islamic State rose, Syria collapsed, the word beheading was heard more often. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police wrenched the nation into a searing conversation about race, power and perception. And most recently, the Taliban killed dozens of students in Pakistan, two years and two days after the slaughter in Newtown. The smallest coffins, indeed, are the heaviest.

The holidays are supposed to be the antidote. We wish each other peace and goodwill, no matter our religion. We seek relief, we reflect, and we pivot toward optimism about the year ahead. But is seeking relief a sign of sanity or a form of blindness? Is optimism naive or an expression of faith that goodness at some point will prevail?

We cannot let dreadful acts consume us. The past year gave us plenty of inspiration, too. A 17-year-old girl from Pakistan won the Nobel Peace Prize, doctors and nurses continued to volunteer to fight Ebola, and the pope spread a powerful message of tolerance and acceptance. Each was its own lesson in courage, and expanded our conception of what could be achieved.

So gather with friends and family. Bask in their warmth and love. Walk the line between remembering the past and yearning for the future. And hope for happier and less unsettling days to come.