Crisis, Grief, and Healing > Spouse, Partner Loss

Holiday Tips/Ideas/Articles

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There are many here that are going to be facing their first holiday season without their loved one. There is help for all and please feel free to post your *own* ideas and tips from holidays past. And, if you are further along on your journey, please share what has helped you.

It's so important to remember that you are not alone. There are many who walk *with* you and are just as confused and frightened, as there is nothing more difficult than dealing with all of those *firsts* without your loved one.

If you find an article that you feel could benefit others here, please post it. If you have an idea, post it! If you're already anticipating lack of family support and are not sure how to handle this, post it here.

Remember, this is *Your* grief and you own your feelings. You can participate in the holiday festivities and then you can choose not to. It is up to you.

Post any concerns here. Someone will help you. We care about each and everyone of you, very much!


"The First Christmas After a Death" --Susan Dunn

1. When we grieve we have no energy.

Decisions are hard to make, the smallest chore seems monumental, ordinarily joyous things are not, things that used to bother you don’t bother you any more, you don’t defend yourself well, to pretend takes too much effort, and you need lots of rest.

“She is seeking the solace of sleep,” my sister would tell people who called.

Nothing matters. The oven goes out, dinner has to be canceled and you have to reconvene in a restaurant. You wonder why something like that would upset the others so much.

2. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Do what you know you should do. Think of a time when it mattered, if necessary – supplements, eating right, rest, talking to someone, keeping your obligations manageable, getting exercise.

Your immune system will be run down. Outsource it. Therapy and support groups bolster your immune system.

3. You can cancel Christmas if you want to.

Sleep, take a walk, or study something intellectual to get your mind off emotional things.

4. You can also change the venue.

One woman took her grown kids downtown to a hotel and they celebrated there.

5. People want to help you and they don’t know how.

Nothing will really help. You just want them back. But let others “do something”. If they ask and you can’t think of anything, ask them to “do something”. They’ll figure it out. Everyone knows houses must be cleaned, dogs walked, groceries bought, and meals prepared.

6. Alcohol doesn’t help anything.

7. Explain what you need.

Say, “If I get up and leave the table, just let me go. I’ll be OK. I’ll come back when I’m ready.”

8. You might get some relief helping others – serving dinner to the homeless, or buying gifts for a family in need.

Then again you might not, but at least you’ll have wasted some time.

9. What will you do with their Christmas stocking?

One woman set out her husband’s Christmas stocking with a journal beside it for visitors to write in it. Another woman slept with her daughter’s stocking under her pillow.

10. Avoid malls.

You see things you would buy for the one who is gone, you see the happy couples when you are no longer a couple, you see the cherubic face of a little boy who looks like the one you lost.

You hear the music. Even a little is too much. Remember you can turn the radio and television off.

In the words of a caring friend of mine, “Have a Christmas.” You may be hard put to supply the adjective, and that’s okay. If you choose to observe the day, “Have a Christmas,” and understand that those who slip and tell you, “Well, I hope you have a Merry Christmas,” don’t know what they’re saying.

The “firsts” are difficult – the first anniversary, the first birthday, the first Valentine’s Day, the first fall, summer, spring and winter.

“How odd,” you may think, when the first snow falls in the first winter after, or when the first daffodil blooms in the first spring after. “How odd that’s the same when the most important things are not.”

Prescriptions and predictions are annoying. Time does heal many people and it becomes less raw with time; however, if that time does come, it comes at its own pace. Be forgiving of yourself and others, and, well, have a Christmas. Or don’t. One way or another that particular day will pass and you will have survived your first Christmas without them.

Together our group had a holiday memorial to our loved ones, lighting the 4 candles in the Advent wreath. No one knows who wrote the prayer, but here it is:


As we light these 4 candles in honor of you, we light one for our grief, one for our courage, one for our memories, and one for our love.

This candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

This candle represents our courage – to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to change our lives.

This candle is in your memory – the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, the caring and joy you gave us.

This candle is the light of love. As we enter this holiday season day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us. We love you.

And then you can say their name.

Don't know what to do about the holidays this year. Part of me aches to see everyone again, yet I have distanced myself from them recently. I think what I really need to do is forewarn them that I'm still kind of a wreck before I head over there. I don't want anyone to be surprised when they see how bad off emotionally I still am (I feel like I am, anyway).

Judy's family, and in particular her three sisters, really welcomed me as part of their family when Judy introduced me to them years ago (1982). This was before we were married...I was still just their baby sister's boyfriend! I still vividly remember that first Thanksgiving. Her sisters have similar sounding names, and I thought I would never be able to figure out who was who! What great memories I have of that time. I know they still love me, and would do anything to help me, but I have been keeping my distance. Why? I don' think I understand why myself.

The Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays are troubling for me because I took Judy to the hospital for the last time just before Thanksgiving last year, and she passed away in the hospital on Dec. 3rd. I did go to Christmas celebration last year at one of Judy's sisters house, but I was mostly numb. I guess I'm afraid I'll be overcome and break down or something. This all has really been consuming me lately...

I know exactly how you feel DaveB. When my husband passed away Nov.2009, the holidays were quite difficult for me and my children. The most difficult thing is that I don't have any family myself, all I have is my husband's family, and although they have taken me in as their own, I still to this day, since his passing, don't feel like I belong there anymore. We visit ALL of the time, my kids love them dearly, but I just have this feeling in me that I can't shake.

As for tips, every holiday, whether it be birthdays, Easter, or whatever, my kids and I bring a sweet treat to the cemetery to share with my husband, their father. We usually bring a chocolate bar (Kit Kat works really well), and break off a piece for each one of us, and then eat an extra piece for their dad. It makes them feel like they are still celebrating with him. They also still make holiday cards and stick them up at the mausoleum. The holiday is not over until they have celebrated at the mausoleum with him.

Hope this helps!


--- Quote from: DaveB on October 04, 2011, 08:43:06 PM ---Don't know what to do about the holidays this year. Part of me aches to see everyone again, yet I have distanced myself from them recently. I think what I really need to do is forewarn them that I'm still kind of a wreck before I head over there. I don't want anyone to be surprised when they see how bad off emotionally I still am (I feel like I am, anyway).

--- End quote ---

DaveB, I suggest you write what is called a grief letter.  Here is the one I wrote and have been handing out to my family, friends, supervisor at work and co-workers.  It may help you format your own letter.  Good luck to you and hang in there.

September 15, 2011

As you know I suffered a tremendous loss when Denise recently passed away.  Her passing has rocked my world to the core.  We shared everything.  She was the center of my world and I continue to miss her terribly.

Now I find that I am going through the grieving process.  It has been a hard journey so far and while I am told it will get easier, I anticipate I will never be “over it”…through it maybe but never over it.   I believe at some future point I will learn to have accepted it.  I will always love her, now and forever, and will always treasure the love she gave me.

It had occurred to me, and has been confirmed by some of the information I have gathered at the grief counseling meetings I have attended, that I am not only grieving for the loss of Denise but all of the myriad of things associated with losing her.  Her homemade blueberry pies, the way she spooned me in bed, her sitting beside me in the truck, her daily phone call…hundreds and hundreds of things associated with the life we shared that I will have to absorb, grieve over and let go. 

I am also grieving for myself.  I defined myself by the relationship we shared and now that that has ended I will have to redefine myself…find my life’s “new normal.”  It is not a process I had expected or even wanted to go through but I understand it will be necessary in order for me to move on.  It may not be comfortable and may not be easy but it must be done.

For now, I can only tell you that I am experiencing many of the “symptoms” of grieving of which others before me have advised me to anticipate.  The sudden engulfing wave of loss and pain, the unexpected tears, the mental confusion, the paralysis; all these things I have experienced and will most likely continue to experience for the foreseeable future.

So I ask for your understanding if I don’t seem like my old self or if some days I am withdrawn.  Or if, overcome with emotion, I excuse myself.  Maybe I will not want to do things that I have done in the past or I may need some private time to myself.  There may be parties, celebrations or holidays that I chose to bypass. These things will happen and they are a natural part of the process.  During this adjustment time I may need your help and if I do I will ask for it.  That may be as simple as listening to me talk or sitting quietly with me.  I don’t really know.  Otherwise, when you consider me, consider that “I am okay.”  No need to constantly ask me or worry about me.  I assure you that whatever pain I am feeling has not been caused by anything you have done or said.  I refer to the pain as “emotional shrapnel.”  It has to work itself out and will not be denied.

I look forward to the day when I have passed through the grief.  I look forward to the day when I can fondly remember all that I had with Denise…without the overwhelming pain and without the uncontrollable tears.  I look forward to the day when I have truly accepted the reality of the loss and made peace with it.  I am working toward that.  At this time, I appreciate your patience and concern.  And I thank you for all of the support you have shown.

God Bless You,


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