Grieving Through the Holidays

I wish I had a magic wand to make it better but the holiday season won’t go away and we can’t avoid it (even though we would like to).  We need to grieve and work through the pain but unfortunately, the holidays often prove to be a stumbling block on our journey from grief to healing.

Holidays tend to intensify grief and feelings of loss as we are flooded with memories of our husbands.  Below are some tips that I hope will help you handle the holiday season.

 Break with tradition – Sometimes, it helps to change things up.

  • You can try inviting someone new to join your family dinner.
  • One way to celebrate might be by going to a church service.
  • You can reach out to someone in your neighborhood who is alone.
  • If the celebration is usually at your house, you can ask your child to host it.
  • Or, you can simply choose to ignore the holiday completely.  It’s OK if you don’t feel you can handle it. You’re recovering from heartache. You can always return to your old traditions when you’re ready.

Honor your loved one – It may be time for some new memories.

  • Some people like to light a candle to remember a loved one.
  • Others enjoy taking turns telling favorite stories about the person or sharing meaningful pictures.
  • Make some decorations in honor of your husband.
  • Instead of a Christmas tree, you can donate a tree.
  • A unique way to honor someone is to have a star named after them.

 Honor yourself – There’s no right or wrong way to deal with the holidays.

  • What do you want to do?
  • Be open with your family and friends about your wishes.
  • Ask yourself what you feel you can handle.
  • You always have choices so don’t let others make your decisions for you.
  • You can join family and friends for as long as you’re comfortable.
  • Go to events with a friend or family member instead of walking in alone.
  • If you may want to leave an event after only 10 minutes, that’s fine.
  • At this stage you just want to get through the holidays without a melt down so focus on taking care of yourself and don’t try to please everyone.

My first Christmas, as a widow, I couldn’t stand staying home and so I went visiting everyone.  I had three Christmas turkey dinners that year but what I did not do was cook a turkey.  I just didn’t have the heart to even try to make a big Christmas dinner.  Others like to have the big Christmas dinner at their place because it’s too much of a change not to have it.  This is where you decide what you can handle and what you can’t.

There is no way around it, Holidays are draining.  Be sure you get enough rest, eat well and try to avoid too many stressful events because the “happy holidays” can be emotionally exhausting.

8 Responses

  1. Kaye Peterson

    What if you want some time to yourself duing the holidays? My relatives have decided I can’t go anywhere alone during the holidays – even if it’s to hole up in a hotel room for a few days. Getting tired of the “chaperoning”. I know they mean well, but I’m ready to drive off into the sunset and not tell anyone until I’m there. Thanks for your advice – it has helped me through some rough times.


  2. Pat

    Although my husband passed away on Dec 8th of last year, I feel like this is my first Christmas without him, I know it sounds odd. Last year I put up the tree early and decorated inside and outside of the house because my husband so loved Christmas. I believe he knew that this would be his last Christmas.

    I am having a very difficult time, find myself crying and becoming melancholy.

    I currently attend a support group provided through Hospice. They have helped me so much and I feel like I have helped
    others by sharing my experience with others who are grieving.

    I have made a decision not to put up a big tree or decorate like I used to because my heart is not in it. I will however, put up a small tree for my grandchildren. I don’t want to be a grinch.

    Christmas will be celebrated at my daughter’s with just our immediate family. This is a comfort zone for all of us.

  3. EilaBecker

    This will be the third Christmas without my husband. I started feeling sad on Dec. 1st. I didn’t realize why I was feeling out of sorts and impatient. Usually I am a very patient person. But lately even small things annoy me. Now I realize why and maybe that will help. Jim and I made a big thing out of Christmas and often spent it at our home in S.C.- he hated the cold. Now when I go there it’s not the same without him and I’ve put it up for sale. It will be hard to part with but perhaps it will bring closure to that part of my life and I can move on. I no longer put up a tree but I always host our Red Hat party and prepping for that helps . What we don’t eat, I give away. My advice to anyone going thru this is to keep busy and not to isolate yourself. We need time to grieve and to remember but dwelling on a past that we cannot change can affect your health. Would your husband want you to be sick and despondant? No! Get your hair done, put on your heels, and really try to forget even for just a little while. Feeling sorry for yourself just makes things worse. Make a list of things you are thakful for -you’ll be amazed at how long it is! Merry Christmas!

  4. Mary Francis

    I love your advice Eila. It is important to do things for ourselves like getting our hair done and being with friends. We never want to move on and forget our loved ones because memories are an important part of our past but we do need to get back into life and enjoy our blessings. Christmas is always a hard month for a widow because it highlights how lonely it is without our husbands. The best thing is to spend time with people you care about and who care about you.

    Take care, Mary Francis

  5. Mary Francis

    Last Christmas you would have been in a haze and so it’s no surprise that it feel that this Christmas is your first one without your husband. I’m happy to hear that you are going to your daughters because staying home by yourself doesn’t help take the pain away. I now have two grandchildren and your right they do help us to not become “a grinch”.

    We have a “Chicks Night Out” widows group that is a social group and it helps to be with others that understand our Christmas grief.

  6. Mary Francis

    They love you but only you can travel this grief journey. Let them know how much their love and support means to you and that you will be happy to spend time with them throughout the holidays, but speak up for yourself and explain that its hard to be a happy person for everyone all the time. You need to grieve and not feel guilty that your bringing the holiday mood down for others. Take some “time out” from the holidays and grieve, cry and let it have it’s time. You will be better able to handle the times you have with others if at first you grieve and heal.

  7. Phyllis

    My husband passed away Feb. 2, 2013 & we had no children. I am alone in a state where I have no friends (other than those who want what they don’t have i.e. money) and my family & good friends are far away. I have tried to volunteer in nursing homes or hospitals to no avail. I don’t now what to do with myself.

  8. Mary Francis

    Phyllis – you have no children or grandchild to hold you where there are no friends or family. Why not move back to where your family and good friends are? Take control of what you want to do and it will empower you to do even more as you move forward.

    Sit down and make a wish list of what you could do if there was no chance of failure. FEAR is a terrible thing that we all have trouble controlling. Do one thing on your wish list and than another and another. There will create powerful and positive energy that will help you find out “what to do with yourself”.

    There are alot of people/places that need someone with a good heart to share their time and caring with. When we hurt the best way to heal is to help others that are also hurting. Take care, Mary Francis

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