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Surviving the Holidays Without Your Spouse

You and your spouse have celebrated the holidays for years. You traveled together to the houses of family to share gifts, laughter, joy, and to remember those you lost during the year. No matter the circumstances, you you did it together.

I will be different this year. 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.

Time heals all wounds, however, you'll need to get through this holiday season first. It will get better, but it's going to take time. Here are some ways you can survive the upcoming holidays.

First, you'll have to decide HOW you want to spend the holiday.

You've lost your spouse, but 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 year. Some things to consider:

  • Do you want to try to keep all your holiday traditions from years’ past?

  • Do you want to spend the holidays largely alone or with others?

  • Do you want to do something special to remember and honor your spouse?

Isolation is never a good idea. Having a plan is. It's critical to ensuring that you don’t have family pull you in several directions to do a bunch of activities you don’t want to do. They'll be concerned for you.

Be real about your abilities. If there are things your spouse used to do and you want to keep traditions alive, you may have to make some adjustments. For instance they may have made an incredible feast or they may have been the ones to put up all of the outside decorations. Who will hang the lights? Where will your tree come to? Who will retrieve the decorations from the attic? Holidays are hard enough with two people, let alone by your self.

Now is a great time to accept help when others are offering it to you. Rather than abandoning a holiday tradition completely, if someone doesn't offer you help, better to ask for it, instead of just letting the tradition go. After all, you've spent decades keeping it alive. You'll be surprised how many friends, family, or neighbors you have accumulated over the years. Asking for help is not weakness, it's courageous and smart. You'll be surprised how happy people are to help.

There are other ways people will offer to help you during this time. 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. If you're not the party type, you can certainly spend some one-on-one time with a good friend. It could be just what your heart and your soul needs.

It's important to remember that you're not the only one suffering the loss. Your children have lost a parent. Your grandchildren, a grandparent. You can be sensitive to that, but remember you get to decide how you will live through this holiday. Your children may feel differently because they may want to honor their parent by keeping traditions alive. Others will be grieving too. Try to find a compromise when they want to do something you don't.

This holiday season without your spouse will undoubtedly be tough, especially if it's your first.. Take it easy on yourself. There is no right or wrong way to survive it. Do what feels right for you and for the ones who love and support you.


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