Holiday Survival Tips for the Widowed

Thanksgiving ushers in the holiday season on a tidal wave of nostalgia. It’s a time of year steeped in traditions. Just what you need now, a whoosh of memories. There are crowds and colors, songs and snowfalls, parties and presents, and shiny happy people singing carols in Currier and Ives settings. Feeling like a Grinch? Don’t sweat it. We’ve all been there, seemingly on the outside looking in at all those Facebook friends living perfect lives! Stop. Relax. Breathe. You’ll get through this. The holidays can be challenging under the best of circumstances — losing a loved one makes it seem impossible. While you can’t change the past, you can take charge of your future.

  • Spruce Up – That first year I couldn’t bring myself to put up a tree – it felt too forced – but I did clean up and spruce up with a few decorations. It made a big difference having a little bit of Christmas sparkle surrounding me, prompting childhood memories.  A few poinsettias near the fireplace and the scent of fresh pine from the wreath on the door made me smile when smiles were scarce.
  • Be Charitable, Turn on Your Kindness – It’s the season for giving and although you may not feel you have much to give, you do. Any act of kindness provides an emotional boost. Check in on an elderly neighbor, donate clothing, volunteer at a charitable event. When you do good, you feel good.
  • Smile – “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”~Thich Nhat Hanh. When you smile you actually trigger certain neurons to fire (that’s a good thing). In the Psychology Today article “There’s Magic In Your Smile,” Sarah Stevenson explains the biology. “Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.” Try it. Besides making you feel good, smiling is infectious; return smiles are almost guaranteed.
  • Host – Organize a holiday get-together with other widows/ers and those you’ve met in your bereavement group. They may be grateful for the opportunity and your common bond will foster a relaxed mood.
  • Be A Guest – Make your best effort to attend holiday gatherings (at least one). Shunning the holidays oftentimes makes it worse. We can’t stop Christmas from coming, but being with people is comforting and reassuring.
  • Be Appropriate – While we all need a shoulder to cry on, holiday parties aren’t the place. Try to put your best foot forward.
  • Take Care of Yourself – It’s an exhausting time of the year with shopping and preparation – be good to yourself, get enough sleep and keep up your exercise routine.
  • Indulge – ’tis the season for cooking and baking and feasting – allow yourself the indulgence of holiday treats.
  • Make plans – Be aware that you may need to reach out first. Friends and family, even other widowers, may be uncomfortable contacting you, assuming you’re not up for anything resembling fun.
  • Me Time – Being alone isn’t necessarily lonely. Don’t miss out on that movie you’ve been wanting to see or crossing a few items off your holiday shopping list just because you don’t have someone to accompany you.
  • Get Out – Take a walk, the winter air is invigorating. And if you’re not living in a cold weather area, even better! There’s no excuse for not taking advantage of the comforts and reassurance of Mother Nature.
  • Cozy Up with Comfort Foods – Make yourself a wonderful meal (or takeout – no judgment here at Widow 2.0 🙂 ) and settle in with your favorite holiday movie. Ignoring the holidays is almost impossible, find a way to be part of it.
  • Take a Trip – Some widows may feel the need to flee. Will a perfectly timed December vacation get you through the holidays? Know yourself. Will being on a beach keep the holidays at bay? For some, it is the answer.
  • Create New Traditions – Initiate a Girls Spa Day smack in the middle of the holiday season. Is it time for a scaled down tree? Go to midnight mass instead of a morning service.
  • Plan Ahead – You know the holidays are coming, make arrangements. If you’ve always hosted Christmas Eve or Hanukkah and have no desire to do so this year, reach out to family members – someone will likely step up, but may be hesitant to ask you.
  • Let the Good Memories Flow – Just as you can’t ignore the holidays, you can’t forget your loved one.  I found that referencing Robert made things easier on my family and friends, they knew it was OK to talk about him in front of me. Remember, you’re not the only one grieving; you’re loved one undoubtedly touched many lives. Sharing memories of your spouse with friends and family helps them through their grief.
  • Discriminate – Be with people that make you happy. If ever there was a time to rid your life of toxic people, now is that time.
  • Believe in Tomorrow – Allow me to offer up a crystal ball: it will get easier. Although each person’s situation is unique, from the widows I’ve communicated with these past five years as well as my own experience I’ve learned that the passage of time to be a great help. And a glimpse into your future can put this year into perspective.
  • Do It Your Way – There is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays, only YOUR way.



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