11 Ways to Survive the Holidays As a Widow

Nov 17, 2023 | Uncategorized

Tips for Valentine's Grief

The holiday season can be one of great joy. But for widows and their grieving children, it can also be one of great sorrow. It reminds us that our husband is missing.  It can be one of the most challenging times of the year.  We aren’t having the Hallmark Holiday.

I remember the first couple of holiday seasons after my husband died, I would get Christmas cards with happy family pictures filled with all their good news for the year.  While I have met widows who liked receiving cards like that, I have to admit they made me sad and even angry.  I was looking at these happy families while my family was in shambles.  I know they didn’t mean any harm.  I sent our happy family Christmas card to my widow friends before my husband died.  I just didn’t know any better, and neither did my friends.

We can feel out of control during this season or want to avoid it altogether.  The key is not to let it just happen to you.  Yes, the holidays will be tough, but there is a lot we can do to make them more bearable for you.

Maybe some of these suggestions will help: 

1. PLEASE DON’T COMPARE

After losing your husband, the holidays may be intimidating. You may lack passion and energy and feel alone, resentful, and overall awful because everyone else seems to be enjoying the time of their life.

Naturally, it could appear that everyone is having the most enchanting, romantic Christmas ever on the surface. Social media is flooded with images of happy people, beautiful lighting, strolling couples holding hands, and an overall sense of love, hope, and happiness. But this is not always the case.

For various reasons, many folks truly struggle during the holiday season. Therefore, never assume someone has it all just because you’ve seen a tiny portion of their life. They can also be going through a difficult moment.

2. REEVALUATE TRADITIONS

Even if it’s difficult to comprehend, things will be drastically different from now on. Even if you would love for everything to remain the same at this time of year, that isn’t always possible. Thus, it’s critical to participate as actively as you can in influencing this shift.

Consider your ideal holiday celebration, the customs you want to maintain and the ones you want to break. Make a new one in honor of your husband.

We have a great worksheet included with our Holiday Webinar Workbook that you can get here. Sit down with the entire family and look at what you want to do. 

Whatever you decide to do this Christmas, don’t be scared to try new things, rethink old customs, and figure out what suits you best.

3. CONSIDER NOT DOING THE HOLIDAYS

Some of you may need permission not to do the holidays this year.  So, if that’s you, I am giving you permission. For some of us, it’s just too much. 

When I did my holiday workshop at a widow’s conference recently, a woman approached me, hugged me and thanked me. She was the mother of two young children.  She had recently lost her husband and was dreading the holidays.  It was so painful for her to think about doing them without him.  Every Christmas Eve, she would wrap all the presents with her husband and place them under the tree.  It was something they always did together.

When I allowed her not to skip the holidays and do whatever she wanted, she decided to take her kids on a ski trip to get away from it all and do something completely different together.  She was so relieved after she chose this.  But she needed permission.  And for anyone who judged her, she knew to say, “ I have to do what is best for me and my kids.  Thank you for understanding.”

4. BE HONEST WITH OTHERS AND YOURSELF

When it comes to getting through Christmas after losing your husband, I can’t stress this enough. Be sincere for your happiness and sanity. If there is something you want to avoid doing, let people know. They will understand.  And, if they don’t, that’s just too bad for them. Furthermore, be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and what you can and can’t do. 

Be honest if you’re still determining if you’re ready for another holiday party you’ve been invited to. It’s always okay to say you’ll give it a shot, but clarify that you won’t be staying long.   If you don’t feel up to pretending to be okay when you’re not, tell them you aren’t up to it.  If you think you might want to go, you could thank them for the invitation and tell them that you would like to go but might change your mind at the last minute, depending on how you feel, and ask them if they are alright with that.  Now, you have prepared them. 

It can sometimes be beneficial for you to push yourself a little. What feels good, nevertheless, is only known by you.

5. DO YOU REALLY NEED TO SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS?

I can’t imagine a new widow would think they must send Christmas cards, but maybe some do.  I didn’t send cards for five years after my husband died.  I just couldn’t do it.  

But you may want to, and that’s fine.  

In my holiday workshop, I share that sending a Christmas card out with what I call “A Grief Letter” can be a great way to let friends and family know what you and your family need and can be a great opportunity to get more support and understanding. If you want to know about The Grief Letter, watch our video here.  We have sample grief letters in our holiday workbook at the link we included earlier.

6. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Even in the best of moods, the frantic and chaotic nature of the holidays may be difficult to handle. Thus, you must give yourself time for you this year.

Give yourself plenty of time to rest, weep, and reflect. Take a stroll and avoid the crowds. Take a massage or spend some quiet time at home doing a memory-enhancing craft. Create a memory jar or a memory box.

Engaging in such an activity can be quite therapeutic and provide a material means of fostering a sense of closeness with your loved one.

7. CHRISTMAS SHOP WITHOUT STRESS

Do yourself a favor this year and avoid being anxious about Christmas shopping. It’s unnecessary to hurry to the stores and start your Christmas shopping as usual; doing so will just overwhelm you.

Don’t be scared to give your time, purchase gift cards, or use the internet. In January, offer to take your mother to the theater or take your buddy out to lunch. They will be delighted to spend time with you, providing you with something to look forward to in the upcoming year.

8. LOOK FOR A COMMUNITY THAT UNDERSTANDS

This season, it can be easy to want to stay completely away from people. Even though we don’t expect it to be, spending time with others can be comforting.

You could find a local or online bereavement or support group or call out to others who might be going through a similar situation. Being with others who truly “get it” might bring comfort, even though everyone handles grief differently.

Here are some links to events and support organizations:

9. STEER CLEAR OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media can push the knife further into your broken heart – seeing all the fabulous fun events and happy families.  Please be cautious with it. Take a fast till the new year.  

If you do what to be on it, I have a suggestion that many of our widow clients have done.  For the 12 days of Christmas or the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas,  each day, they would post something they appreciated about their husband or a story about him or a picture.  They actually enjoyed doing it, even though it was hard. 

10. REMEMBER YOUR HUSBAND

We know you are missing your husband and these holidays hurt you.  But they can also be a time to remember him.  How you want to do that is up to you.  At Thanksgiving, I wanted a place for him with a candle at the table.  Some people put a picture of their husband with a candle beside it in the house.  If you have family gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas, you could have each person write a memory of your husband, put it in a jar or in a stocking, open them up, and read them on Christmas day.  

Another suggestion is to have the children or everyone write a letter to your husband and put it in his stocking and read them on Christmas.  

At the beginning of the gathering, I always tell people to acknowledge that you are all missing him, have a good cry, and then continue on.  Tell people it’s okay to be sad or cry today as needed. Allow yourself to enjoy any good and happy moments throughout the day without feeling guilty.  Yes, I know we widows feel guilty anytime we seem happy or laugh in public. It’s like we think we are dishonoring our husbands.  But we aren’t! 

11. IF POSSIBLE, SELECT ONE THING EACH DAY FOR WHICH YOU ARE THANKFUL

I know this is a tall order and you may want to swear at me right now.  What could you possibly be thankful for after your husband died?  But, if you can do it, it will help make this season better for you because it impacts your brain and perspective.  

It could be cuddling with one of your kids, having lunch with a friend, a Starbucks peppermint mocha, or making it through another day.

It could be as easy as cuddling with one of your kids or enjoying a cup of tea with a friend. But in a time of such sorrow, finding something to be thankful for can truly help your perspective.

Surviving Christmas After Losing Your Husband

Lastly, remember that you hurt so much because you loved so much.  Your pain is a reflection of your love. Nothing you choose to do or not do this season will change your love for your husband.  

Make the decisions that are best for both you and your children. Follow your intuition rather than worrying about what you “should” be doing. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. 

If anyone says you should do something, a great reply is, “Thank you for your suggestion, but I will do what is best for me and my family.  Thank you for understanding.” 

Do whatever you need to do during this time; if that means sobbing all day in your pajamas, then so be it. However, it’s okay to have a fantastic day or a fun night out with pals; don’t feel bad about it. Our husbands would want us to be enjoying ourselves. So when those moments come, please embrace them.  They are a gift amid the pain. 

I hope you found something helpful in this.

When you’re ready, there is a lot we can do to make this journey more bearable. Check out our one-of-a-kind widow retreat here.

 

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