Surviving the Holiday Season – 2020

Let’s start this right away by acknowledging just how awful the holidays are for those of us who have lost a loved one.

Part of the problem is just how ignorant our friends, family and co-workers are about grief.  But who am I to criticize – I was just like them when Donnie was still alive and death had not yet touched my life.

But now I’m a widow and I understand the intense pain and sorrow of not having my Donnie to share a quiet evening with in front of our lit up Christmas tree.

I don’t know your personal grief journey, but being prepared is the key to getting through the holidays.  Understand that people will say the most stupid things, like “it’s been a year, are you finally ready to date?” or they will make you feel obligated to hide your grief and tears so that they don’t feel uncomfortable during the holidays.  Expect this, let’s be honest, they just don’t get it.

I don’t usually suggest isolation, but in this crazy year of covid-19, if you don’t want to put on a smiling face and spend time with others, then don’t.

Don’t feel obligated to go, but don’t leave them hanging wondering if you are coming or not.  Just tell them outright how you are feeling, no excuses.  Do this for yourself – stay or go – do it for you and not because of the expectations of others.

18 Responses

  1. Susie
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    Thank you Mary Francis. I am so so sad this year and I don’t want to be around anyone and with covid it just compoundeds the grief. Thank you for your ray of hope. I love your shares

  2. sherry snyder
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    Thanksgiving came and went and thank God I survived. I was invited with a group for dinner, but declined as I felt I really had to try my new tradition on my own. I went to Golden Corral and had their Thanksgiving buffet. Thought I would like to create my own tradition to get myself thru my second holiday season without my Mike. I promise you that it was not easy at all; however I did it and felt proud of myself. I basically forced myself to do this as I kept coming up with my own excuses to not go. Now for Christmas….

  3. Carol Corcoran
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    I was fortunate enough to have worked…I never received an invitation from his family and that was hurtful…my phone never rang and I wasn’t strong enough to call my long distance family…I saw on Facebook that they set an empty chair for their dad…I appreciated that…

  4. Brenda
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    I lost my husband to suicide, during the holiday season, right after Christmas. Death steals everything, surgically removed and tailored as the final chapter. Stories, whatever they may be, fade, morph into memories passed on from one generation to another, with events added or omitted, whether the intent is done through innocence or with malicious agendas; either way, Death steals all.
    God gives us free will to hope and dream of completing our circle of life. Life is given to us as a gift as long as God wishes, then Death comes and removes all you have accomplished.
    Death takes away your freedom to wish to live on, to love, and feel the ones you cherish. To never see a sunrise or sunset, never know the warmth of a midsummer night. It steals all the kisses and hugs you once took for granted. The ignored calls or excuses one makes to avoid. It takes the good and bad from one’s life and replaces it with silence.

    Death removes the very essence that makes us unique and real. Death comes unexpectedly in places we could never imagine. The End hides in the shadows of our lives, lurking. Sometimes we feel it, in anger, fear, or sorrow, but Make no mistake, we all will experience it. How we see Death defines how we live our lives in the end, carefree, reckless, hungry for love and attention, the desperation in one who struggles to make sense of what this all means. Now 11 months later through self-reflection and prayers, I have noticed a positive change in myself by confronting it with hope, kindness, and compassion. I have days when I feel I will slide backward but in the end, I know I will be ok, and most importantly I no longer wish for normal because it never will ever be normal. I live in the now. I take advantage of the silence to sort those thoughts that I know will never go away. That lost the feeling of never being able to speak to him again or hold his hand. My Holidays I will spend alone, painting, reading, and watching some good movies, I am getting to know myself again after 22 years. I wish all of you out there my sisters to know that you will dance again. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2021

    • Elaine
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      You are so right, Death has stolen everything. It stole our shared dreams, our memories together our ability to allow each other to be who we are and know that we have that “person” always there. No it was not always perfect but you well know, like said those little things, the ignored calls or getting tired of that same story … It is stolen all those chances to make it different tomorrow or next year different. Thank you.. this is really really tough. My kids say you are so strong, well strong has nothing to do with it. Stolen like a thief in the night and even though I get things done, my life is stolen and all those shared experiences went with it. Someday I will get to that place but I am not there now and being strong will not make a difference.

  5. Carol Casey-Smallman
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    My husband has recently passed. The grieving is all so very new to me. I too am glad Thanksgiving is over. Now to face the holidays. Reading other widows go through the same, is comforting to me. I feel Iam not alone. All I can do right now is just take each day as it comes. My Christmas right now is going to be with my grandchildren. Just don’t want to be alone on Christmas. My husband, Ed made the holidays so special. I will miss him. Thanks for this opportunity to share.

    • Arty Smallman
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      Oh my goodness, reading through the posts on this and all of a sudden you see your name….I to am a Smallman!
      My husband was Robert “Bob” Smallman, Jr., and I just lost him 5 weeks ago on Saturday, November 14, 2020. We were married 32 years.
      Smallman is not a common name and most of the time we were tagged as Smallwood.
      We have 4 children and 9 “Grands”. We started having our Christmas a few days before the actual day. We always thought it was unfair for children to wake up, get their gifts and then not be able to use or play with them for being whisked off to visit other relatives.
      I feel so lost and broken, I lost my heart that morning. Bob was sick for 3 weeks and was gone. Stage IV lung Cancer, there were no signs or symptoms. He developed a cold was told he ha Bronchitis, so he began treating himself. He did not get better and went to an urgent care and was told he had Pneumonia. Bob was an insulin dependent diabetic. Gave him meds and sent home. After the second trip to the urgent care. We wound up in the ER, chest X-rays, lower belly X-rays, CT scan, meds and home referred to a urologist. Two days later back in the ER, excruciating back pain, more X-rays, scans everything, more meds, sent home with OxyContin and a referral to an Orthopedist. The third trip to the ER, he couldn’t breathe, they finally admitted him. That evening they informed us he had stage IV lung Cancer with spots on his liver and two affected lymph nodes.
      In order to do a lung biopsy, they would have to raise his oxygen level, they never could and in less than 48 hours he was gone. So sudden.
      Luckily, we had most of our Christmas for the Grands done, with that many we start shopping in August. He was “Poppy” to his Grands, nothing will ever be the same without him. He was so special, big hearted, warm, so friendly and smart, he could do most anything if could get his hands on it and was an amazing whiz in math.
      I would like to be alone on Christmas, but due to unfortunate circumstances, my son, his girl and new baby are with me. I will do my best to enjoy the day with them. This pain is sometimes so intense, it’s hard to hide at times. I break down so easy, cry in all the stores, and have had people around me constantly. Then suddenly thrown to the financial wolves when he passed, I don’t feel I have had time to grieve.
      Sorry for this long reply, but I felt compelled to reach out when I saw “Smallman”. As they say, the Lord works in mysterious ways, maybe there was a reason.

  6. Lynne Loper
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    I have been a widow since May of 2019. My husband was diagnosed with lung cancer when he was having a MRI for his Crohn ‘s disease. He only was already stage 4 so I’m a matter of a couple months he was gone.
    We moved to Ct. From Long Island where we lived most of our lives. We lost a 22 year old son to drugs and a 37 year old son to drugs. We have a daughter who was a fantastic child and pushed herself to get her softball scholarship to Sacred Heart and her Masters in Fairfield. She is know a Liscensed Family and Marriage counselor. So all my friend s are in Long Island. I also lost 4 siblings who were my best friends. So now I find myself alone. I see a therapist every month but nothing will take away from being alone.

  7. Barb
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    I really feel like a grinch my spouse died 2 weeks ago and I am having a hard time adapting. I am upset when Christmas 🎄 music comes on and get sad watching commercials about Christmas. Fear of the future too.

    • Brenda
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      Awe Barb I know. The holidays or seeing couples. All that mushy stuff Hang in there I promise it will get easier. I am 11 months out. Dec28 will be 1 year. I pray a lot. And I recently purchased two labradoodles. It redirects my thoughts. Nothing will every be normal again as it once was. But. I promise you. You will find your new normal. Find your balance. Namaste

      • Barb
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        Thanks 😊 I know time takes time but it seems some family expect me to bounce back and move on. Well there has not even been a memorial yet. I feel like that would help. Worried about finances and trying to navigate paper work for life insurance and Social security etc.

        • Brenda Smith
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          I know what you mean, Barb. I was fortunate to have my sister, who helped me navigate through all the paperwork. I was suffering and still am from PTSD. My memory has improved and my instincts tell me I will be ok even tho I wonder sometimes what the future hold for me, then I say to myself, I do not know what the future holds for me, but I am not concerned I will make it no matter what. But it is scary, in the beginning trying to get around all those emotions that bombard you out of nowhere, and yes some family members just don’t get it. I can totally relate to you. Or they are so insensitive to your feelings when your other half is gone after so many years of being with them. You no longer have that other person there to talk to. That routine has been disrupted. Now find your routine. I wish you happiness and some peace of mind as you try to process all this. <3

  8. Jackie
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    My husband died 10 days ago. I feel numb. I don’t want to think about Christmas without my husband.

  9. Erica
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    My husband died November 11, it’s been almost a month. If I look back on this last month, I can see that I’ve made some progress in my grief journey, but I know this is just the beginning and I have a lot more to process. Michael was my best friend, my soul mate, my family. Both my dog and my husband passed this year and the loneliness is soul crushing. I’ve mastered the art of autopilot and I rely on this skill to get me through my days. Every day without him feels like walking through fire, yet I continue to do it.. I talk to Michael all the time and I feel his presence wherever I’m at. That gives m some comfort

  10. Barb
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    There are moments of flashbacks while he was sick that come back to me. during his illness,there was a glimmer of hope that he would go into remission. I ❤ cared for him at home the best I could it was traumatic for us both. He did go to inpatient hospice finally. I have some guilt about that my hope was he could stay home. Holidays will come and go. I may decorate not sure. I have been angry about life insurance forms and dealing with the bank. There needs to be an easier way for widows to deal with the issues.

  11. Gina
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    I lost my husband suddenly on October 5, found him when I returned home from work. I, too, feel numb still- you are not alone in this. Taking out our 1st Christmas picture ornament was very difficult, but I will tell you this. As hard as it has been to think about getting ready for Christmas, I felt that having no decoration/preparation at all would have more depressing, especially with not knowing who will be able to travel during this pandemic. Some adjusted expectations and 1 little project at a time has been helping some.

  12. Teresa Shippy
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    Thank you Mary Francis. It is wonderful to know that so many others are going through this horrible grief process. This morning marked the 6 month mark for me since losing my amazing Gary. It had been a 5 year slow cancer diagnosis that was determined to come to an end. I am so thankful and blessed to have known such an incredible guy. Now, as I continue to pick up the pieces and navigate this new path. I am thankful to have many books to read and this very informative blog to read as well. Got through the dreaded Thanksgiving and now moving on to Christmas. We are all going to get through this season! and the next, next…One day at a time is my mantra! It does get easier right? What has helped me, is to get into a routine. For me, it’s exercise, errand running around, working on the home and lot’s of artwork. But still, that lonely void is there, but I’m hopeful that it will subside in time.

    • Mary Francis
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      Hi Teresa – yes, it does get easier but because we loved them, they will still be part of our lives until the day we die.

      Be careful that you are not running around being busy so that you don’t have to face your loss. To heal your broken heart you first have to let yourself grieve.

      It has been 13 years for me and there are still times when I feel that same “lonely void” that you are experiencing. It does subside, but it has become part of my life. I have learned to accept those lonely times, while years ago I tried to outrun them. I’ve learned to let myself feel and accept it, while I still moved forward.

      Take care and be safe, Mary Francis

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