For a Phoenix family, this Christmas is especially hard, as it is the first Christmas since Christine Mustafa's disappearance, which happened back in May.
Mustafa's body has not been recovered.
To make things even more painful this Christmas, And to make things even more painful, Monday was Christine's 35th birthday. Family and friends marked the now-somber day with a balloon release.
Christine's sister, Linda Donaldson, stood alongside other family and friends and reflected on the past year as the balloons filled the air. Donaldson said the family isn't giving up hope
"We still have hopes and we pray that within the next couple of weeks that they find some of her remains," said Donaldson. "Anything is possible."
Christine's boyfriend, Robert Interval, Jr., remains in custody on first-degree murder charges. Phoenix Police and volunteers have been combing a Buckeye landfill since October, looking for any signs of the mother.
"It's still surreal to me," said Maryanne Mustafa, via a Skype interview. "It's an empty feeling. I don't know when it's going to kick in, the feeling of finally realizing that she's no longer with us."