The Holidays

WSN-MO: Widow-Man with Dr. Nyle Kardatzke

When I think of holidays, I think immediately of Thanksgiving and Christmas. My wife died on October 25, so those two holidays were a shock. I didn’t intend to immerse myself in open, emotional grief, but I didn’t want to pretend that nothing had changed. Those holidays were a challenge, especially that first year.

At Thanksgiving, I knew I needed to decline invitations from my wife’s family to join them. My son and his wife came to my house for a quiet lunch and afternoon. In the evening, we went to Cracker Barrel for Thanksgiving dinner. Half of the Hoosier nation was there, it seemed, but we had a traditional turkey dinner and felt that we had done justice by Thanksgiving.

Christmas marked precisely two months after my wife’s death. My adult children and four young grandchildren asked if they could all come and stay at my house. I knew I had to decorate the home to some extent rather than broadcast to these young people that I was alone, sad, and in shock. Christmas decorating was a project my wife had always led, so my mind felt like oatmeal, and my body seemed leaden.

I could hardly go through the motions of testing the lights, putting them up and getting the tree from the attic. Thankfully my son and his wife came to help, and the house quickly began to look a lot like Christmas. That year’s decorating was far below the standards my wife would have expected, but it was enough to signal to my family that life was going on and to me. The holiday I had dreaded became a step toward the future.

On the third Christmas after my wife’s death, I was with one of my daughters and her family. It was the first time my daughter had a grandparent there for Christmas, and it was my first time to be alone in the home of one of my children. I now have had ten Christmas seasons without my wife, and each has become easier, happier, and more focused on family, friends, and the future.

Holidays won’t be the same without your wife, but they won’t always be the same kind of emotional challenge you may feel at first. You may find altogether different ways to celebrate the holidays, maybe at home with some of the same decorations and foods you enjoyed with your wife, or perhaps in someone else’s home or a restaurant. Locations can change from year to year to accommodate the needs of family members.

Let Thanksgiving and Christmas take on new shapes in new ways. Find your way naturally into your new holiday traditions, and you will begin to celebrate them wholeheartedly.


Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, WIDOW-MAN, every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at [email protected]


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