Five Tips for Holiday Planning After Loss

Dec 18, 2020

The holidays are just around the corner, which means that many widowed people are in full dread mode. Other people have expectations of us, and we have expectations of ourselves. There are parties planned, traditions to be repeated, and gifts to be opened. And then there’s the grief, the deafening sound of his absence.

Creating a solid plan for navigating the holidays is time well spent. Here are five planning tips that may help alleviate the dread and curb the uncertainty.

#1 Have realistic expectations.

The holidays can be tough. In year one, we don’t know what to expect. In year two and beyond, we expect ourselves to be “better,” (and others do, too). My experience is that every holiday – national and religious – carries memories and traditions, and this is true year after year. As time goes on, we figure out what works best for us. Often people ask if it gets easier. My response is that it gets different over time and becomes something more manageable than in the early years. Expect there will be moments of happiness and sadness, that you may need time alone, and that you will do your best to navigate the moments as they come.  

#2 Make time to feel the feelings.

If you plan to gather with family or friends, also carve out time to feel the difficult feelings that you’ll likely experience. This past Thanksgiving, my 9th Thanksgiving without my husband, I made time for a long walk. As I walked, I felt the feelings, I ached for what was, I honored the pain that comes with great loss. I let it be there and I experienced it fully. Later when I was with a small group of family, I was more able to be present in the moments because I was not trying to sweep the emotions under the rug.

#3 Be alert to people pleasing habits

If you are a people pleaser, you will very likely want to make everyone happy during the holidays. Well-intended family and friends want you to “feel better” or “move on,” or at least look like you’re having fun. If ever there was a time to put yourself on top of your priority list, it is now. What do you need during the holidays? What is best for you?

#4 Make decisions and like your reasons.

Widowed people can struggle with decision making, and the holiday season presents yet another set of decisions to make. Will you attend in person? Spend the weekend? Host everyone at your house? Cook a full meal? Keeping in mind your needs from tip #3, make your decision. There are no right or wrong decisions – only the decisions you make. Then, make a list of all the reasons for your decision. The trick to decision making is liking all your reasons.

#5 Have your own back.

When we are part of a couple, we typically have each other’s backs, so becoming widowed means learning to have one’s own back. By having realistic expectations, setting aside time to feel and banishing people pleasing, you have set yourself up to make the right decision for you. You are looking out for yourself and your needs and you like your reasons. Now it’s time to stand behind your decision, no matter what others think. It isn’t up for debate. “I’ve given it careful thought, and this is what feels right for me this year,” is a sentence worth rehearsing.

If decision making feels overwhelming in your life after loss, consider applying for my private coaching program called Life Reconstructed. It’s an investment in yourself that is unlike anything you have experienced. You’re worth it.

Learn more about Life Reconstructed.

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