It’s never an easy thing to think about. The moment you wake up and realize you and your husband will never share these special moments again. He died suddlenly over Thanksgiving weekend in 2016, so my first major celebration without him was our anniversary (Dec. 06). Regardless of the date or celebration, the holiday season can be hard for some people who have experienced loss. I dedicate this blog to all of those reading it who have lost someone close this year. From my heart to yours, I hope these words are helpful in those dark moments, and gentle for your souls’ comfort.
There were a few people who I got to know during the first 6 weeks after his death, where their advice came in handy during the year of “firsts”. I kept thinking about my feelings and emotions as the days were building up to the month of December. Some of those included the following: (any of them sound familiar to you?)
- How can I make it through Christmas? I can barely function!
- Where am I to go for the holidays? I just want to be alone.
- Who do I shop for? I can’t even make decisions right now for myself, let alone for other people too.
One of my very dear friends had asked me to fly down south to spend time with them in early December of that year. When I got the offer, I couldn’t think of a better time to go then over my anniversary. This gave me time to reflect on those moments and what I would do for the holiday season. A nice little getaway to a familar place, South Carolina. I had attended school there, and this small trip allowed me to be in a safe space to think, reflect, and move forward at the speed I felt comfortable with. These were the ideas I came up with, tried, and succeeded during my first experience of being widowed and surviving the holidays. Even though all grief experiences are entirely different, and I fully respect and believe this, maybe these ideas will help you reflect on the things that will help you get through this Christmas.
Below are some little gems that served me well when I was going through the month of December.
- Allow yourself to be GENTLE with yourself. This is the most important piece of advice I was given. Emotions are gonna be high and low and you can feel happy and sad all at the same time. I remember sitting in the car, unable to decide where to go out for dinner when asked my opinion. Life was too foggy for me at that moment and I got anxious very quickly, even to make a simple decision like that. I simple said I wanted a salad, “so you pick the restaurant that would offer a salad for me and I’m okay with whatever”.
- Listen to yourself and give yourself some space if you need it. Even if you are with loved ones, you maybe needing to leave and have a quiet moment all to yourself. And thats okay! I know many who just want to “tough it out”. I encourage you to acknowledge those moments, because those moments will surface and they will pass. One of the things I shared, even to the children: I was going to give myself a “TIME OUT”. In most families, these two words are known to kids, which made it easier for them to understand. I never really got into any other explanation because that seemed to be okay with everyone. We all need a “time out” every now and then. Pay attention to what your body needs.
- Look for ways you can be mindful in the moment. As the days led up to Christmas, I began to see Christmas, not as ONE BIG EVENT, but a series of small things. When thinking big, I was getting overwhelmed thinking I cant make it through. Looking at it one moment at a time, helped me focus. Help out with baking cookies, or set the table. These little things are keeping your hands busy.
For me I focused on Christmas Eve, and a visit with a girlfriend. I came home and watched a holiday movie… Christmas morning came and I poured myself a cup of coffee, then I went for a walk with the pups. I came home and helped my mom set the table, and did a bit of journal writing. I really started to focus on the little things which helped me get through my first Christmas without my husband. Tears came yes, but in the moment, I minimized additional emotions like anxiety or frustration within the rawness of grief because I kept focusing on the smaller moments of time.
Know that your loved one is there within you. I remember walking my pups on Christmas day. The sun was shining so bright that morning. I could feel him looking down on me. I remember feeling that I was going to be okay, that I would eventually heal. It would take time yes, but the most important part is to allow yourself to be honest with yourself and others: what you need etc.
Two years later, I am in a new relationship and moving forward with life! I am happy, yet I continue to have moments of grief and think of my late husband daily. I managed to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Making it through the weekend was an accomplishment. I didn’t have to leave – like I did the first year, I couldn’t handle it and ran from the situation. By remembering the mindfulness tactics I have stated, I am able to work through my grief emotions and become present.
Being mindful in the moment helps a great deal moving forward. Creating the new normal and making new memories around the holiday season is part of the process. I wish you a wonderful holiday season.
Blessings along your path and with much love – JenCB