In our previous article, we wrote about It’s OK to keep old traditions & It’s OK to have new traditions. We continue with that theme of it’s OK to prepare for the holidays in your own way. Whatever that may look or not look like.
Holidays can be trying even in the best of times. There are plans to make, expectations of people to see, presents to buy, decorations to put up, cards to send out, events to attend, food to make, cookies to bake, and the list goes on and on. This can be stressful even when life is moving along smoothly. Take a moment and acknowledge this can be a stressful season.
But what happens when life isn’t moving smoothly along? The stressors of the holidays and all that goes with it can become that much more overwhelming. If you add grief to this picture, then this season can be overwhelming in a way you’ve never experienced. It can also bring up all of the feelings to a boil that may have been on simmer. Be mindful of this, and it’s OK to take time for yourself to decompress and take good care of yourself. It’s OK to prepare and do the holidays in your own way.
The holidays. Ugh. What to do now?
Take a breath
Take a moment
Take another breath
Think, ”what works for me this year”? You don’t have to DO everything every year. You can decide what you would like to do and what you will take a pass on until you are ready.
One of the things that Jeni couldn’t face after her loss was putting the lights on the tree. Her husband Bob used to chase her around the tree as they put up the lights. She just couldn’t face it anymore. Instead, she purchased a prelit tree so that she could still have her tree but didn’t have to face the emotions surrounding the lighting of the tree.
For Teresa, the Christmas card production fell by the wayside. I didn’t have my envelope addresser and licker. I just couldn’t bear to write the Happy Holidays from Texas newsletter. It felt overwhelming, and I just wasn’t into it. So I didn’t - no explanation and no guilt, I let it go. It felt like it died with Kris. It was OK, and no one ever said a word about it. I didn’t send a card or even try to for many years. I now send ecards to save on time, energy, postage, and the excess stress of it all. It’s also a way to be green and save the planet from more garbage.
Here are some suggestions that may help you to prepare for the holidays in a way that works for you while you are traveling the widow journey:
Consider these questions
- What is important to you?
- What about this particular season/holiday is important this year?
- What do you want and need most now?
Once you have identified the things that are most important for you, you can then prepare yourself and plan for what you want and need.
Tips & Hints to Prepare for the holiday and know it will be OK
- Acknowledge your emotions and feelings
- They may be more intense. Let them flow.
- Take time for your grief.
- How do you want to spend the day?
- Alone, working, surrounded by friends or family? Whichever you choose to do, it will be OK.
- Take time for self-care - whatever that looks like for you.
- Take a walk or bubble bath, spend time outside, get some sunlight, book a massage, have dinner with a friend, have dinner alone, watch your favorite movie, read a book, or wrap up in a snuggly blanket. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.
- Do you know other widows? Maybe write or send them a note. Have a get-together.
- Be mindful of food. We get it. yummy food and binging may feel good; you may want to consider healthier alternatives or at least...portion control.
- Call a friend and make plans with them for the day or event.
- Thank others and tell them you love them.
- Decide if you want to hang their ornaments, stocking, etc.
- Do what feels right. It’s OK to do it your way.
- Do you want to give presents to the kids from your lost love?
- Some do, and some don’t.
- This is another area where you want to do what is right for you and your children.
- Consider if you’d like to do something in honor of your lost loved one.
- Write them a letter or poem, save it, read it to them, burn it?
- Visit their grave site or talk to their urn? Leave a flower or note?
- Light a candle in honor. Sit with the loss.
- Journal your thoughts, feelings, and desires.
- Fix their favorite holiday food.
- Share your favorite memories with your family, friends or children.
- How you first met, most romantic date, previous Valentines.
- Volunteer or Donate
- Show someone or animals some kindness
- It’s a great mood booster
If you’re feeling particularly stressed about the holidays, we’ve got hints and tips for you in this article: Holiday Stress & Widowhood.
Have you been invited to an event and are wondering what to do or how to respond? We’ve written How to survive a holiday event.
If you are feeling really low or overwhelmed - please get support from a professional - be that your spiritual leader, therapist, or coach. Know that you don’t need to do this alone, and asking for help and support is the first step to moving forward.
May Peace and Blessings surround you. May you find comfort and joy in preparing for the holidays in YOUR own way. Remember, it’s OK. Take care of yourself, breathe and move at your pace. Know you are loved & not alone.
As a support, we invite you to download or share with those who’ve lost a loved one our free copy of 10 Ways to Move Forward After Loss.
Peace, blessings, and gratitude,
Jeni & Teresa
PS: Torn in Half: The First Days as a resource for the first days after a loss - available on Amazon in paperback and ebook.