Linda Lewis Griffith

Holidays when widowed

Your dear spouse passed away this year. This is your first Christmas alone in many years. You’ve done OK getting through the season so far. Now you’re wondering how you’ll survive these final, memory intensive days.

The holidays are particularly challenging for the newly widowed. You’re still dealing with the aftermath of your partner’s death. You need to share the news with longtime friends. You’re not eating or sleeping as well as before. You’re tending to endless changes and details with decreased emotional and physical resources.

Of course, nothing will fill the emptiness in your heart. But there are steps you can take to find peace and support during this charged time: Spend time with your departed loved one

Create a small altar where you place pictures, memorabilia and perhaps a candle and some festive decor. Visit the altar when you feel the need to reconnect. Allow yourself to be sad without having to hold yourself together. Envision your spouse telling you to be happy, that he or she doesn’t need for you to be miserable today.

Be kind to yourself

You’ve already had a hellacious year. It’s time to take care of you. According to Hospice of San Luis Obispo volunteer Pam Cabak, “Make the day all about you!” Cabak goes on to recommend that grieving widows get a pedicure or sit by the fire with a glass of eggnog — anything that recharges depleted psychic batteries.

Do everything differently

Nothing will be the same this Christmas without your partner. So give yourself lots of permission to shake things up. Drop everything and drive to your best friend’s house in Phoenix. Book a room and spa treatments at your favorite resort . Order Thai takeout instead of cooking a fancy meal. Give your creative juices free rein so you feel energized inside of maudlin.

Acknowledge your grief

This year you will be grieving. You can’t change that fact. Recognize what you need emotionally. Limit the commitments you take on. Share your grief with friends and loved ones. Be receptive to their offers of support.

Surround yourself with family

Their warm embraces and positive energies will be contagious and uplifting. And, since they’re mourning the deceased person, too, they’ll welcome the mutual support you’ll provide each other. Don’t have kin nearby or not on the best terms with your relatives? Then create a family for yourself. Any group of caring friends or neighbors will do. You needn’t share DNA to feel connected.

Practice forgiveness

The longer we live the more times we’ve been wronged. Holding on to the memories of those hurts saps our energies and interferes with our relationships today. Now’s a good time to wipe the slate clean. The loss of your loved one reminds you that life is oh-so-short. There’s no time to waste being angry. Write a letter to someone you’ve been estranged from. Accept your mother in spite of what she’s said to you. Use your loss as a catalyst to release pain and replace it with joy.

Establish new traditions

Always wanted to travel during the holidays? Or attend midnight Mass? Now’s the time to do just what you want without following anyone’s constraints.

Make yourself useful

A great way to improve your mood is to serve others. You might volunteer to feed the homeless or collect gifts for children at the Women’s Shelter. You can also assist family members by offering to baby-sit for your daughter or helping your grandson remodel his car.

Be thankful

Yes, you’ve lost your loved one. Your life is forever changed. Still, there’s much that merits gratitude. Start a tally of your blessings. Add to it every day. You’ll rediscover areas of your life that are marvelous and that warrant admiration and applause.

Know that you’ll survive

You’ve dreaded your first holiday alone. You’ve wondered how you’re going to pull through. Yet you recognize that even in your sadness, your desire to continue has never faltered. The sadness will diminish over time. It’s the bright star that continues to guide you to a place of peace and hope.