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Holiday Stress & Widowhood

Holiday Stress…there, we said it.  These two words go hand in hand.  Now, add to it the passage of widowhood and we have entered a whole new level of Margaritaville.  The big question is “How do I handle this added element during the holiday season where I am supposed to be happy, merry and all about family and friends and the spirit of the season?”

It’s normal to wish you could just wake up sometime in January or February and it’s all over. Unfortunately, we cannot wave a magic wand and make this time all go away…we have to march, stumble, step or whatever through it all.  So, let’s talk about how you can manage this time in your life.

First, acknowledge both to yourself and to others that this is a stressful time and that there is added stress from the added events of your life.  Know that there is going to be time where you have to take time for yourself to handle the added emotions.  This is NOT selfish behavior.  THIS is self care.

Second, be aware of how this is different for you and your family. The holidays can bring up a lot of new and or more intense feelings. Be aware of this and know it’s normal. If possible, think ahead of what may trigger you and come up with an idea for how you want to handle it. Keep those tissues and journal handy. We know that we have been ambushed and surprised by the holidays and how our grief shows up and pops out. This is a popular time for the ever hated widow wave of grief to show itself.  Acknowledge it, let it pour over you and then you can move on.

Third, the expectations for the holidays may be unrealistic. It is perfectly OK and part of self-care to not feel joyful or to start to feel joyful. There is no wrong or right way. If you feel like running away and not participating you have our permission to do so. You get to choose how you do the holidays.

You may wish to rethink how and what you do for the holidays. You cannot not keep it like it was. It will never be like it was. Hard as that to accept it is the truth. It’s a terrific time to evaluate what  you want to do and what you don’t want to do. What feels good and what feels terrible to you.

Here are a couple of our examples: Teresa stopped sending paper Christmas cards out because Kris wasn’t there to lick the envelopes and stick on the return address labels. The thought of this was just too depressing. Teresa sends out electronic e-cards. Jeni stopped putting lights on the tree. She bought a new prelit tree.  In the past, Bob had chased Jeni around the tree as they put the lights on…so a prelit tree was in order.

A few strategies:

  • Consider how you feel about each person and situation.
    • Plan time with those who make you feel good and understand where you are in life.
    • Don’t be afraid to not do something that puts you in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable.
  • Who and what is important?
    • Keep the traditions that are important to you and that you want to make time to do.
    • Touch base with those who are important to you.
  • Who and what is positive and supportive?
    • Include these people in your plans
    • Call them when you need them…they will understand
  • How do you want to show up?
    • If you want to go, GO
    • If you don’t want to go, DON’T
  • How do you want to respond?
    • Do you want to go for 30min. Vs. the entire time?
    • Tell your host, I would love to come for the desserts only.
    • You have permission to do what makes sense for you.

Self care

Self care is an essential part of the grieving process and life.  It is particularly important when we are grieving and trying to get through the day by day.  No matter what people say, self care is not SELFISH.  Do not let someone make you feel guilty for taking care of you.  You cannot be there for yourself and/or others if you do not take care of yourself first.

When shopping for all the stuff, take the time to get that soft pretzel with cheese to eat while you shop. Get a little something for yourself to enjoy…bubble bath, perfume, …whatever it is that makes you happy.

Call your local spa and make an appointment.  KEEP THE APPOINTMENT. Get a massage, a facial, a pedicure, a manicure.  Something that makes you feel special.

When planning that dinner, put something in the menu that you know you made just for you.  You can share with others (that is ok) but just knowing you made it for you or had someone make it for you may make you smile.

Call a friend or relative.  Take time away to go have dinner, take in a movie, go bowling, or any other activity that brings you joy.

Volunteer – find a cause that you’d like to support and donate what you can (time, money, resources)

Take care of yourself by eating healthy, get enough rest, exercise, drink more water.

If you want that Margarita, drink it.  Just make sure that if you have several, you have a driver to get you home.

Take time to journal your feelings so you can get them out.

Use that bubble bath that you purchased while shopping.

Eat the chocolate. Make/buy your favorite dessert.

Find what brings you joy.  DO THAT.

We’d love to hear from you. Please comment and share your experiences. If you have resources please share with our community.

Sending much peace, love and empathy,

Jeni & Teresa