Many will tell you that within a week of your wife’s passing, you must steel yourself against the trauma of upcoming special days and holidays. We each are likely to have very different experiences during these special days.
Your reaction will depend on how important and memorable each of those days was for you and your wife. For example, Theresa and I had gotten to the point that our birthdays were not a big deal to us, so I did not have a major reaction on that day. The same was true for Valentine’s Day.
However, Thanksgiving and Christmas were major markers for me and did result in unpredictable regressions into deep grieving.
Thanksgiving was tough, but I survived having my meltdown the day before instead of on the holiday. To counter the anticipated Thanksgiving impact, I took our kids and grandkids for an overnight stay at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, which had a Thanksgiving buffet. It changed things up enough that the impact was diminished.
However, my attempt to remember Theresa during the ceremony before the meal turned into an awkward scene. The others and I were just not ready to talk about it without bursting into tears. So, everyone remained pretty mum, and I just let it go.
Unfortunately, Christmas (six months after Theresa’s death) was as advertised, with my regressing into the worst stages of my deep grieving as if I were once again in the first month of my grief journey. This included full-blown meltdowns, sobbing, crying, and yelling. Total funk days occurred often, and I could barely function at times.
I had to escape when I was preparing our first Christmas family dinner together after my wife’s passing. I crouched in our master bedroom closet, shut the door, and sobbed. After regaining control, I returned to the family to enjoy our meal together. I felt better just knowing that I had taken the time to remember and honor my wife in a way that was therapeutic and helpful to my healing.
As I put up the Christmas tree the first year, set out the Christmas displays, and decorated the tree with my grandchildren, I felt it necessary to let the grandkids know that Popa had not forgotten Gaga and that Christmas would go on no matter what.
One thing I have learned during this process is that it is best to confront your demons and your grief rather than try to avoid it. That does not mean wallowing in constant self-pity where you are re-experiencing the pain for the pain’s sake, but rather, allowing your grief to progress and come out as it needs to. This will help you process your feelings and love for your wife. Once this is done, it is much easier to remember and celebrate the past’s good moments and enjoy the ones in the present.
Each widower must find a unique way to embrace and express his grief, which means something special to him and his family. This may build on your talents, such as writing, singing, music, painting, or even carpentry work. I escaped to reorganizing our photo albums to try and counter the grief with the many positive memories of my wife. Writing my book, Widower to Widower, was another effective outlet.
Now in my seventh year after her passing, I find the holidays less challenging. I remember her often and fondly at these times, but I no longer sink into deep grieving. My mantra remains: Stop thinking about yesterday, focus on today, and look forward to tomorrow. I know Theresa would be there with me every step of the way with this approach. Yes, I still miss her, but I am re-engaging with life, as I know she would have wanted me to do.
You can do the same!
© Copyright 2022 Fred Colby
All rights reserved
Widower to Widower 2nd Edition is available through:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie bookstores, Target, Walmart, Overdrive, libraries, and more.
To buy autographed copies from the author, go to: https://www.fredcolby.com/buy-books