For years – decades even – you and your spouse have celebrated the holidays. You have shared gifts, laughter, joy and maybe even a little sorrow during that time. But you did it together.
This year will be different. This year, your spouse won’t be by your side. Not only will the holidays be different, but they will also likely be difficult, perhaps in ways you can’t even expect.
It will get better. Trust me. However, first, you need to get through this initial holiday season without your spouse. Here’s how you survive the upcoming weeks.
You lost your spouse, and you get to choose how to balance your grief with holiday traditions. No one else gets to dictate how you should feel or what you should do this month. Decide for yourself:
You don’t need to have every detail ironed out, but try to have a rough idea of how you want to spend the holidays. Having a plan is critical to ensuring that you don’t get pulled (or worse, bullied) into activities you don’t want to do.
Even if you want to keep your holiday traditions the same, you might have to make adjustments. Your husband may have been a pro at stringing lights and hauling in a live tree from the local farm, but those may not be things you can manage alone.
Having to let go of cherished traditions adds insult to injury. I know. However, before you get midway through a project you can’t complete, be realistic about your abilities to carry on certain activities.
Rather than abandoning a holiday tradition completely, you could ask for help. Likely, you’ve had friends, family or neighbors offering assistance since the death of your spouse. Now is the time to let them know you could use a hand. While you may not be able to haul in a live Christmas tree alone, someone else might be happy to do it for you.
Also, let people help you in other ways during the holidays. This time of year can be lonely. Instead of stoically toughing out the season by yourself, accept the invitations to coffee or dinner that you may receive. Even if you’re not up for a holiday party, spending some time one-on-one with a good friend might be just what your soul needs.
I’m a firm believer that a widow gets to decide how she commemorates the holidays after her spouse dies. If you want to ignore the season or if you want to do something totally different this year, I think that’s your prerogative.
However, your children might feel differently. They might want to continue long-standing traditions in the spirit of remembering Dad. Remember that no matter how old you are, losing a parent can be devastating. Your kids are grieving too. If your grown children want to keep certain traditions alive but you’re not in the mood, try to find a middle ground.
This first holiday season without your spouse will undoubtedly be tough. Be gentle with yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you there is a right or wrong way to grieve through this season. Do what feels right to you. It’s the best way to survive.
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