First Christmas As a Widow

After the death of your husband, no one holiday is more difficult to endure than your first Christmas.  Part of the reason is that Christmas is not just one day, it’s a “season” – from Thanksgiving on.

It seems that everyone around us is in the holiday spirit, buying gifts, decorating their homes, baking secret family recipes and having fun.  While there you are, participating in body, but your spirit just isn’t into it.

I know what it’s like for your heart to ache for your loved one.  Yes, you try very hard to get into the Christmas spirit… to feel happy, but you’re not fooling anyone.

The truth is that Christmas is painful, lonely and sad, and it doesn’t matter how many people you surround yourself with.

I want you to know you are allowed to feel whatever your feeling – sad, broken, unfocused, jealous of others, loneliness, despair, anger, bitterness and the list goes on.  I’ve been in your shoes and it’s just miserable.  Don’t mask your feelings with “I’m okay”.  Talk and share your memories of past Christmases.  Start by saying, “Do your remember when….” and share your memory.

Do you wonder what the grieving protocol is during Christmas Day?  Well, whatever others imagine it should be, it’s not up to you to fill their expectations.

Sharing memories will deal with the elephant in the room so that others can laugh at the stories, add to them, even cry, but it doesn’t matter because it will stop the awkward silences and everyone walking on eggshells.

So, if this is your first, second or third Christmas down this grief journey, don’t be too concerned about “doing it correctly”, because nobody really knows what the “correct” way is.

Have enough guts to share your memories and don’t hide your emotions from anyone, including yourself.  There is no magical way to cope with your pain so be gentle and patient with yourself.

There are no “should” anymore.  Do what makes you feel comfortable and don’t feel guilty.  You are doing what you need to do to cope with this intense holiday and the emotions it brings up.

Also, don’t be surprised if there are brief moments where you do find yourself smiling or laughing, especially if there are children around – please don’t feel guilty about it.  You are entitled to whatever joy you can find.

25 Responses

  1. Sherry
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    this is the first christmas without my love and I am just feeling devastated. I am crying more and more each day. i tell myself to enjoy the holidays as christmas is my favorite time of year. i played the drummer boy (my favorite) and it made me cry so hard I went to bed with a blocked nose and tears streaming down my face. my sister will be coming to visit me (she is nj and I am fl) so hopefully she is able to life some of my painful burden; however I told her not to be upset at me if I do alot of crying that day. it was dec 22 he went into icu and jan 2 that he passed; however he did open his gifts christmas morning in his hospital bed.

    • Julie
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      Last year my husband passed away suddenly in September. That was the first Christmas, but it was such a blur with all the things that needed to be taken care of that I was just a zombie. This year is already harder because my mother just passed away. One day at a time, and I don’t listen to family and friends trying to tell me how to run my life. Doing Christmas shopping I see things he would have liked, but I just try to avoid those areas of the store now. My stepdaughter and her family (I never had any children) are moving away on the 20th of this month. That’s adding to my sadness this year, and I always get weepy remembering the anniversary of the day my dad was buried….Christmas Eve. I just get busy reading and try to do my shopping online. Hang in there, Sherry, we’re feeling alone, but I have friends who have already been where I am and they’ve truly been a gift from God! Merry Christmas!

      • Sherry
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        Merry Christmas Julie! Thank you for the much needed support. I have been doing a lot more reading and exercise.

  2. Jane Bradley
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    Thank you very much for this post.It reassures me that what I’m feeling is OK.

  3. Lorie DeWitt-Antilla
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    This is my 2nd Christmas without my husband. Last year my family forced me into hosting Christmas Day and dinner and brunch. I think it was a good way for them to feel they were helping me through it and maybe it was. I was forced to decorate the house and to not brood. This year I am not hosting, nor am I decorating, shopping or baking. I am working at the Post Office so there is no time to brood as the days are long and filled with packages that need delivering. I remember every day Our past Christmas as my husband really like to celebrate. I can’t do that, it is more “what is the point”. Maybe one day… maybe next year.. just get thru it.

    • Mary Francis
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      Dear Lorie – Sometimes all we can do is just get through it as best as we can. Hold on and sometime in the future you will be ready to do more. For now set back and let the holidays go by – your broken heart still needs time to heal. Take care, Mary Francis

  4. Patricia Foreman
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    This is my third year without my husband for Christmas. I decided not to spend the holidays with family as it is so difficult to be around his family without him with us. I instead spent it with good friends, best decision I could have made. It seems that the grieving doesn’t stop,
    however I have learned that I am stronger as time goes by.

  5. Lauryn McLelland
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    This was my first Christmas without my husband who died of a fast (7 weeks) and horrid fight with cancer on March 20. I am aching so much that I am numb. Yesterday my third grandchild and first grand-daughter was born and I found out that my dear brother-in-law has colon cancer. This news on top of being in COVID lockdown is challenging my strength. I can’t stop crying and am scared because I feel so numb and hopeless.

    • Mary Francis
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      Hi Lauryn – I am sorry for your broken heart, but what a blessing to have a healthy granddaughter. My last granddaughter was born three months early at only 1.5 pounds. It was a wake up call for me about what mattered going forward. It is bad news about your brother in-law, but I feel that you will be there to support his wife. You may think that you are numb and hopeless but you are not. You are crying and scared, and that means you are feeling. You are reaching out for support and that is proof that you are not hopeless. It’s okay to grieve, it is normal and healthy to do so. Take care and be safe. Mary Francis

  6. Wendy
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    My husband died six months before this year’s Christmas Eve. This is my first Christmas without the man who was my soul mate. Our covid bubble was just two people and we were happy in each other’s company. I’m doing stuff and my friends praise my progress but so often I think my solitary accomplishments are all a lie.– oh, you’re s doing so well! No I’m not. I cry so loud and so often, it scares my new pets. ( at least the house isn’t empty)
    Darn!! the pain is really bad. This page helps. Yes, Christmas is not just one day… it’s the whole darn season. I have friends and tons of support. Am I lucky? Yes. But that doesn’t fill the gigantic hole in my heart. Yea, Yea, time. I hate this journey.

    • Mary Francis
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      I’m sorry Wendy. Grief is an awful journey and I won’t lie, it’s not a quick journey.

      It helps to write in a journal so every year you can read back and see how you have progressed.

      I also have a community of widows from around the world on Facebook “The Sisterhood Of Widows – Private Group for Widows”. You can request to join and it helps to share with other widows. Currently there are over 10,500 widows in the group.

      Take care of yourself.

      Mary Francis

  7. Natasha
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    Hi Mary
    My name is Natasha. I’m from South Africa. I’m so grateful that I found this blog., although I am using my late husband’s Facebook page.
    This is my first Christmas without him. He passed away in July 2021 due to Covid 19.
    I have a 13 year old son.
    This entire festive season seems so lost and empty without him.
    I’m trying my best to make it easy for my sin but I’m so emotional that , I’m failing to uplift his spirits.


    • Mary Francis
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      Hi Natasha. I’m sorry for your loss and for the pain your son is also going through.

      I think the best thing you can do for your son is not to hide your grief. If you allow your emotions then your son will feel free to also express his grief. The pressure will be off him to try to uplift your spirits.

      It’s your first Christmas and it’s normal for both of you to be lost and empty without your loved one.

      Sit down and talk it over with your son, cry, be sad, angry and lost without pretending it’s anything else. Don’t pretend or try to be merry when it’s just not there this Christmas.

      Hug your son and tell him how much he means to you. That is what you both need.

  8. Maria
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    My first holidays without my Brent. He died Nov 26, 2021 from stage 4 lung cancer.
    The doctors told him he only had 5 months but we were blessed with 3 years.

    He was a really good man and husband. We were together 20 years and last year we did get married during Covid. Never did I tire of him, I love cooking for him, fussing and spoiling.
    He was 69 years young and was able to retire at 52.

    I am not angry at God, I just would have rather I go not my Brent.
    He was so thoughtful even to the end when he expressed sadness that he ruined my birthday and Thanksgiving.

    I saved his voice messages just to hear his voice. My only family.

    • Tracie ChaffinGreen
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      Hi Maria, I feel your pain, we were inseparable, I hate how everything is past tense now. We were together for 38 years, no family left, I am so lonely, lost and alone. Thankfully I have pets too, I want to say hang in there you are not alone

  9. Pat Clark
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    This is my first Christmas without Frank. He passed away March 21 of liver cancer. We found out he had it January 15, and he was gone in March. It’s unbearable. I still keep thinking maybe I’ll wake up and all this will just be a horrible nightmare.
    I have family and friends that want me to visit them, so that I’m not alone, but I cannot bear being around happy people this week.
    This is the very first time I’ve been completely alone on Christmas. It’s hard, but it would be harder to be around people trying to make me feel happy.

  10. Carole
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    My husband died on November 14th, 2021 at home in our bed in my arms, complications following what was suppose to be minor surgery. It was December 21st, 2019 that they told me he would not make it through the night, but we got an extra 696 days, mostly good days. Now, after 57 years of marriage I am sitting here alone for Christmas. I am alternating between crying and scrubbing the kitchen floor. I am lucky enough to have children in town, but because of the pandemic I am on my own for this holiday. It sucks, We loved each other so much and were rarely apart

  11. Toni Burke
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    I became a widow on December 7th, 2021. My huband was not sick. We went for a walk the day he died. He took good care of his health. A stroke for him was instant. This is a very difficult time of the year. We were married over forty years.

    | Reply

    My husband passed away December 5, 2021, after a five-year battle with lung cancer. Christmas wasn’t too bad as I willingly chose to spend it alone. But I am dreading New Year’s Eve. That was the night we always re-confirmed that we wanted to spend the next year with each other.

    • Mary Francis
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      I’m sorry Shawn for your loss. For the terrible cancer that took his life and for your pain.

      I feel that you have an inner strength, you must have to have cared for him over five years of sickness.

      You need to have this time to grieve and your broken heart also needs to acknowledge your pain. But your broken heart also will want to heal and that is when your strength will be needed.

  13. Barbara Spigutz
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    My husband,soul mate and best friend all in the most beautiful package one could imagine, died March 2022. Never, ever did I think I could live even a single breath without him by my side. Inseparable for 20 years. The most amazing ride of my life. We were unstoppable even at our ages. Truly a saint of a man. Here I am not waiting, but allowing myself the time, not to heal, that will never, ever happen, but to savor and fill my heart with all the beautiful memories we shared. I am truly the luckiest woman on the planet to have had the fairy tale life. Now I’m going to enjoy the next third of my life and decide who I am without him by my side. Some days are hell, more days are miraculous. I can do and be whom ever I decide. For the first time in my life, I answer to me… I’m getting there, as I am sobbing writing this, because I choose to… and darn it feels empowering.

  14. Susan
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    My husband of 34 years died unexpectedly on September 16 while taking a walk. We were best friends and spent all of our time together. I seem to be doing worse now instead of better. It is good to know that others feel the same. I sometimes feel that I am not being strong enough but….I am doing what I can. I am so tired of people telling me that it will get better. I am going to start a new tradition on Christmas Eve with our kitty. We are going to spend the time together at home watching a movie. I have had people tell me that is not good. How do they know what is good for me> None of them have been in my shoes.

  15. Su smith
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    My husband died suddenly on the 11th October. One minute he was in the study playing guitar . I went to ask if he wanted a cup of tea and found him dead on the floor. A massive heart attack from nowhere. He was my soulmate my life. I spent the first bit, waiting for the autopsy , cancelling holidays. I have no family. His daughter is lovely and flew in from Australia for a bit. His son and wife and Mick’s beloved grandson are 40 miles away with busy lives. I feel that there is no point in being here. I have to stay to look after our lovely cat but that’s it. People are being kind but I don,t want kind. I just want Mick,

  16. Rose
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    My partner died unexpectedly on Christmas Day 2022. I was with him and did cpr for a twenty minutes by myself, until the emt’s came. We could not get him back after an hour of cpr total. Was traumatic and I am in shock still.

    I did not have close friends besides him and a number of non relatives, when I have shared news of his passing have immediately recited lists of his belongings that they or their friends would like to somehow have, and then I am framed as the jerk to be upset about their behavior.

    Couple above with other non relatives screaming obscenities at me because I didn’t tell them more quickly or first. None of this is helping my mental health

    My partner was a locally well known artist and the status seeking nature of his fans was always a drag for us to deal with. Any advice would be welcome.

    I am so sad, I am barely keeping it together. I wish everything was different. I wish people didn’t suck so much.

    • Mary Francis
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      I’m so very sorry for your loss. Please don’t try to rush your grief. It hasn’t been a month and it’s normal for you still to be in shock.

      Sadly it’s also normal for others to say and do the wrong things around us. The truth is that people do “suck” when it comes to dealing with us widows.

      When you are ready see what grief counselling is available in your area and try to find other widows to talk to.

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