Surviving the Holidays

Commercials and advertisements between late October until December 24th tell us it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the time to buy presents, share gifts and celebrate the joy of being with your loved ones. It can be a painful, sad, and overwhelming time for those who have suffered a loss. It runs counter to what we are feeling. Society says it’s the time to laugh, smile, and be happy. For us, it feels like the worst time of the year as we think about our loss.

I wish there were a clear-cut path for we Widowers and anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one to follow that would make the journey easier this time of the year. I wish I had a solution.  The reality is I don’t have one. I can only offer some suggestions on coping and moving forward in the season of lights and hope.

I recently spent Thanksgiving with my adult son and daughter-in-law in South Carolina. My son and daughter-in-law invited their relatives and neighbors to join them for Thanksgiving as well. I was reluctant to travel as it was the first time in years I would be away from my home during the holidays, and I wasn’t sure if I would be ok. My apprehension quickly dissipated upon my arrival.

I could not have asked for a better time and to be surrounded by a wonderful group of people. I had never met several of them before, but we shared a sumptuous meal, tons of laughs, and so many stories of our past Thanksgiving, respectively. Several of them asked me to tell them about Thanksgivings my wife, and I shared. Our Thanksgiving was always punctuated with large amounts of food, good times, and very fond memories.

After our grand feast in South Carolina, all the adults found a comfortable spot in the house to take a well-deserved nap. The children went into the backyard and played a game of soccer. After my 30-minute nap, I was asked to join them. As a 64-year-old man with a robust figure who hasn’t played in years, I had so much fun. I can assure you I will never be drafted by any Football Club, but I laughed and enjoyed every minute I played. It’s something I have not done in years and will remember for a long time.

Later that night, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. I wanted to spend some quiet time alone, reflecting on what a great day I had. I walked past so many houses festively decorated for the season. I thought of when my wife and I would travel around our neighborhood and look at the beautifully decorated homes. I thought about the decorations we would put inside and outside our house. We had the decorations up from just after Halloween to January 6th. Since the season goes by so quickly, we wanted to enjoy every day. As I returned on my walk back to my son and daughter-in-law’s home, I thought about what I learned about the holidays as Tom the new Tom.

First, I was open to something different. I could have stayed home and visited with a few friends for Thanksgiving, but I chose to travel and enjoy the company of some wonderful people who are now new friends. I was open to the new path I decided to travel.

Secondly, I played soccer, enjoyed the exercise, and had so much fun playing with the kids. I was willing to again step out of my comfort zone, try something I had not done in years, and enjoy the benefits of a fun experience.

Lastly, I remembered what my wife taught me about the holidays with such fondness. It’s a time of the year when we celebrate, not mourn. It’s the time of the year to gather with friends and family, to tell them what they mean to you and how you appreciate them. It’s not time to be a hermit and sit on the couch and lament about what happened to you. My wife would often say, don’t let your pain prevent you from doing good. Yes, brothers, it’s hard for us this time of year. Whether it’s 18 months since I lost my wife or two years or five years or more, the holidays remind us that life is to be celebrated and lived.

I wish you peace and comfort in this special time of the year.

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