How to deal with the holidays after loss.

REPOSTING: Thinking about how I have handled the holidays the past few years.  Things keep changing.  This will be the first Christmas without my mom and I know that is going to be hard.  Hope these suggestions are helpful to you (and to me as well!)

Last year I was able to smile as I became engaged the weekend before Thanksgiving. Gazing upon my shiny new engagement ring made moving forward in the next chapter of my life a bit easier. But it hasn’t always been happy times.

Thinking back on the past few years and recalling what I did to deal with the holidays after loss, I thought I could share with fellow readers who may be struggling right about now.

The first Thanksgiving without my husband was the toughest.  I was not prepared.  I don’t think I could have been.   My brother in law and his wife 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 that helped.

For Christmas I booked a week long 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.

We had been hosting New Year’s Eve parties at my house for years with the chocolate fountain for all the kids before Mike died.  That first year 2 of my best friends visited me from out of town and we spontaneously ended up at a club nearby playing 80s tunes.  We danced together and had champagne at midnight. Just us girls.  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.  We took a road trip to Cape Cod and New Hampshire. 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. I know as the dates get closer I may start to feel sorry for myself or have waves where the grief hits me again.  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 love the analogy that my aunt sent me after my husband died and I became an unexpected widow.  

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. Here are some suggestions that have helped me get through grief during the holidays when it is getting tough.

    1. Listen to my positive affirmations on my “Think up” app

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

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

4. Watch a movie like “Titanic” or “Hair”  – life could always be worse.

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

6. Play with my puppy. He makes me laugh.

7. Take a nap.  I will be tired and I will need to rest.

8. Go to Costco – I love to browse around there and the cooked chickens are a deal.

9. Pull some weeds or do yard work.  Physical effort makes the yard look better.

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

11. Listen to music. Play a favorite tune on Youtube. Maybe even sing along.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except when it isn’t. This year I am continuing to break traditions and try new ways of celebrating.  The tree is up and although mostly white ornaments, I did put up a few photo ornaments of when the kids were little.

Visiting family at Christmas will be nice. I know I deserve it after teaching Kindergarten for this past month!   Holidays come and go.  I noticed that the anticipation of those dates is often worse than the actually date.  Making plans in advance for something different may help, as well as surrounding yourself with friends and family.

Thanks for reading my blog and sharing my journey.

Do you have any suggestions for dealing with the holidays when you don’t always feel up to it? HOW TO HANDLE THE HOLIDAYS AFTER LOSS OF A SPOUSE


View posts by runawaywidow
At the age of 51 I unexpectedly became a widow. For the first 6 months after my husband died, I was in shock and numb. I journaled and with the help of friends, family and therapists was able to get back to living my old life, even if it is now very different. Before I was married, I had spent a semester in England and backpacked around Europe. My husband and I moved from New York to California for 8 years and started a family. Travelling took a back seat to raising a family and going to work everyday. Since the loss of my husband I have visited a lot of places with family and friends and took a solo trip to Thailand. I am enjoying sharing my stories and adventures as well as some of my insights to how I am traveling the path of being a widow. I hope to share my stories and adventures as well as some thoughts on being a middle aged widow. While I have some great experiences traveling to Thailand and cruising to Central America, some of my adventures involve a trip to see a Broadway show in nearby Manhattan and a shopping trip at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I can inspire anyone to go out and continue to live a good life that would be my greatest accomplishment.


  1. 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”

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. It’s our third holiday season without my dad and first without my grandmother. You’re correct that it does get easier, but it’s still hard. Developing a gratitude practice has been so important to me!

    1. I agree. When I feel sad I try to redirect my thoughts toward being grateful and that does help. Thanks for reading

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