How to deal with the holidays after loss.

As I feel the exhaustion of my 4th holiday season as a widow, I dug up one of my own blog posts to help me continue through this month.

This year is different for me as I can officially smile when I gaze upon my shiny new engagement ring and think of moving forward in the next chapter of my life. 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.  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.  My late husband’s parents had moved back to New York a month earlier after 25 years in Florida. They were upset by their son’s sudden death and it was assumed that we would all get together at my house since the boys were home from college.  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 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.

WeI 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 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 “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 it there. 9. Pull some weeds.  Gets my frustrations out and yard will 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.  My cousin and her family joined us for Thanksgiving at my house this year.  I ordered an entire Thanksgiving dinner.  It was good but still a bit of an effort.  May not do that again. Next week we will be traveling to my sister’s house for Christmas and hope to get some sunshine and rest.  I know I deserve it after teaching Kindergarten for this past month!  Those cute kiddos are truly off the wall right before the holidays!! After resting up, I will be hosting the neighborhood get together after the brave bunch jumps into the sea for the annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day.  That is always a fun way to welcome the new year. I am excited for 2019.  I have several amazing trips scheduled as well as plans in the making for a wedding, mine.  No date yet but it will happen. 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


15 Comments on “How to deal with the holidays after loss.

  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. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

    • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

    • 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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