Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Holidays...Or Not.

I was recently involved in a support group for those who have been newly bereaved. Everyone shared stories about who they had lost, and when, and how they were feeling about it; not one person was dry-eyed, not even the facilitators. We all had broken hearts, everyone facing what it was like to have to go on without the person we loved. It seemed to be the general consensus that nothing will ever be the same again; nothing will ever feel quite right again; the world, and we, will be forever changed. At no greater time is that more evident than during the holidays.

It being November, the question was asked about what to do during the upcoming stress-weeks we call the holidays. I remember quite clearly what that first Thanksgiving and Christmas was like without my Mother,to whom the holidays had always been important family events. We managed it by trying to maintain some element of how the holidays had always been for us, tempered with a few new activities, a few compromises. For Thanksgiving, we had dinner with the family of a good friend from Church; we still had the standard food and togetherness, but it wasn't at home, created by my Mom as it always had been. For Christmas, we insisted on a tree and gifts, and I even tried to make the same cookies, although fewer of them; but the day after Christmas, we took a trip to Mexico. (It turned out to be a disaster, but at least we tried!)

In time, I tried to make the holidays for everyone; using some of the old traditions, and creating new ones with my husband, then with my friends after my divorce. It got easier, but it never really stopped being strange. I'm happily married again, and my husband and I do something a little different each year, adding in whatever makes us happy from our pasts and our present. There will always be a sense of change, however, and of a certain alienation between how things were and how things are. We just manage as best we can.

The consensus during the group on how to deal with the holidays was, most importantly, be prepared. Don't let the holidays sneak up on you, make some sort of plan. But also, things won't be the same, so don't feel like you have to try to make them that way. Think of new traditions, new plans; don't hesitate to make the celebration smaller and quieter, or not have one at all. Don't overcommit yourself, but try not to be alone. Above all these things, do what you need to do for yourself and take care. Above all - take care.


  1. So beautifully written; thank you for putting all this into words. My heart is broken anew today, and your post makes me feel less alone.

  2. Oh Emily, I'm so sorry your poor heart is broken; it just gets so hard sometimes, doesn't it? I'm so glad you wrote in, I'll be thinking about you today, and I'm so glad you found some comfort in the post. Take care of yourself! Joy