How to deal with the holidays after loss.

Approaching my 3rd holiday season as a widow, I feel compelled to share my story and maybe plan for the upcoming weeks as well.

The first Thanksgiving without Mike, was the toughest.  I was not prepared.  I don’t think I could have been.  I made no plans and had hoped to sit on the couch with my 18 and 21 year old sons, watch football and eat pizza.

That didn’t happen.  Mike’s parents had moved back to New York a month earlier after 25 years in Florida. They were upset by Mike’s sudden death and it was assumed that we would all get together with Mike’s brother at my house since the boys were home from college.  They generously offered to make all the food.  I provided the wine which I started drinking very early that day.  It was awkward.  We all missed Mike but didn’t know how to approach his absence.  We ate.  We talked about stuff.  We were together and not alone so I guess that helped, but I think we all said goodbye and then cried the rest of the weekend.  I know I did.

For Christmas I booked a week cruise with my 2 sons.  We slept together in a tiny cabin.  We enjoyed eating and drinking in the sunshine and we swam with dolphins on Christmas morning.  I had been determined to do something different.  In addition, I did not send cards.  I did not decorate.  I did not buy presents for anyone. I did not go to church. I just disappeared or ran away from the idea of the holiday.

Mike and I had been hosting New Year’s Eve parties at my house for years with the chocolate fountain for all the kids.  That first year 2 of my best friends visited me and we spontaneously ended up at a club nearby playing 80s tunes.  We danced together and had champagne at midnight, with no boys.  That’s what good friends do.

On Valentine’s Day, I drove to South Carolina with another girl friend for the week since we had off from school.  My momentum for running away from these trigger moments was just beginning and it seemed to be working for me.

For  Mike’s birthday, the 4th of July, again I planned a trip with my kids and extended family.  Doing things differently than we had was key to my survival.

Finally, our wedding anniversary and the one year anniversary of his death were coming up at the end of August.  My sons would be leaving me to go back to school and I dreaded the idea of being alone.

So I booked a trip to Thailand, by myself.

This definitely was the right thing for me to do.  I started to discover who I was and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I wanted to travel and to not be sad.
The second year I was a bit more traditional.  I opened the box of Christmas decorations, and while I still avoided all the sentimental ornaments (I didn’t get a tree) my home looked festive.  I bought presents for other people.  I found some charitable things to do. I even went to a New Year’s eve party, with boys. I know as the dates get closer I may start to feel sorry for myself or miss Mike more.  I may feel sad that he is not here and even angry that other people still get to have their husbands and kid’s fathers around for the holidays.  And that is O.K.  I am learning to acknowledge my feelings and not always run away from them. I remember the analogy that my aunt sent me after Mike died.  That the journey through grief is like treading down a road with potholes.  In the beginning, the holes are big and wide.  It seems you may never get out.  Over time, the potholes are still there, but they do get smaller and come along less frequently.  Knowing that they will come, and that “this too shall pass” allows me to keep moving forward. To keep those potholes from sinking me, I will  remember my positive affirmations and do some of the following things. “Whatever your are thinking in your mind, you are letting into your spirit.  Guard your spirit.  The more you focus on the good things in life, the more good comes to you.”

Pray gratitudes:  Start naming all the things and people I am thankful for.


  • Take a walk outside – fresh air and nature is good for me.



  • Watch “Titanic”  or another tragic love story – life could always be worse.



  • Call a friend or family member.  Maybe they need to hear from me too.



  • Play with my puppy. He makes me laugh.



  • Take a nap.  I will be tired.



  • Go to Costco – I love it there.



  • Pull some weeds.  Gets my frustrations out and yard will look better.



  • Read a book.  I will have something to talk about at Book Club.



  • Listen to music. Maybe even sing along.



It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except when it isn’t.  Do you have any suggestions for dealing with the holidays when you don’t always feel up to it?




13 comments on “How to deal with the holidays after loss.”
  1. jacci Milo says:

    So proud of you…you handled grief “your way” and that ca never be a bad thing. Time will certainly help but it seems you have a good finger on the pulse of the rest of your life, so keep on living it “your way”

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thanks Jacci – it’s such an unknown journey but just dealing with it the way I can.

  2. Kelly MacKay says:

    I am sorry for your lose, but it sounds like you are becoming you. Open your world up and invite new beginnings.
    cheers well done

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Thank you. Yes opening up to new beginnings has made a big difference.

  3. Addie says:

    Let life. Surprise you, !

  4. Nikki Maunu says:

    Thank you for sharing. I am into my third year of widowhood and approaching my 4th holiday season without my husband. This year is a little harder as Christmas Eve would have been our 10 year Anniversary. I am just starting to feel like myself again and accepting this new “normal”. I have finally realized it is ok for me to have fun and enjoy myself. That the only thing that matters is the happiness of my children and I. I am starting to finally see some light through the fog that has been my life the past 3.5 years. Thank for you the inspiration to continue this journey.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      So glad you are starting to feel “normal” again and focused on your own happiness. Thanks for reading

  5. We just lost our grandma a month ago, this post could not have come at a better time. Thanks for being so open and sharing with us!

    1. runawaywidow says:

      I’m so sorry for the loss of your grandma. The holidays will be different but don’t forget to share happy memories you all have.

  6. Yvonne says:

    Visit a new widow and take her a care package for the holidays! Just read this and thought it was a great idea. Helping someone else always blesses the giver too.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      Great idea. Thanks

  7. Beth Scriv says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. This year is my second Christmas since loosing my mum to cancer. As she passed away in September I was so not ready for November – her birthday then December. It was similar to your story, as a family we were a bit awkward. I got drunk on baileys and cried in the shower…..
    This year your pothole analogy is so true – it will be tough and at times I will slip but it will be better.
    Stay strong and inspiring.

    1. runawaywidow says:

      So sorry for your loss. There will be tough moments but hopefully more good ones this year. Thanks for your comment

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