Surviving Spouse Corner: Facing Your Holiday Blues

Surviving Spouse Corner: Facing Your Holiday Blues
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The holiday season is a time of joy. It’s a time of get-togethers with family and friends. But it also can be the perfect storm of events and emotions. For those suffering the loss of a spouse, it might be overwhelming and a time of dread.


Some have a fear of going to a party alone, of becoming emotional, or being alone and lonely on days that used to hold so many happy memories. Others worry the weight of carrying their grief is visible and contagious. A few are trying to decide how much jolliness is appropriate, what lessons about grief and coping they are teaching their children and grandchildren, and whether the absence of decor and tradition signal the sadness and depression that surrounds us.


All these considerations can weigh one down, and the numbness sets in. Fortunately, there are some coping skills that work.


Find your comfort zone. Initially, you might feel you want to cocoon, and be antisocial. For most of us, crying is necessary. A lot of crying is best done privately. You also need time to focus on your health and happiness. Maybe you sit out the holidays. Eventually though, you must …


Embrace change. After a necessary (your time frame) grieving period, accept the reality that no holiday will be the same again, and adjust.


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Instead of the big holiday dinner at your house, take the family out. If it’s affordable, rent a cabin in the woods or a house at the beach. Assign dishes for each guest to bring. Announce that your only responsibility is the turkey, gravy, and dressing. Relax. Do things simply.


If you and your spouse hosted an annual holiday cocktail party, and you feel up to entertaining, do something different. Alcohol is a depressant, and tears are harder to hold back if you’ve been drinking. Have a cookie-sharing party or a neighborhood open house.


Decorate, but keep it simple. Guests will enjoy the party whether your tree is 5 feet or 15 feet tall. A wreath trimmed with a red ribbon on the front door might be all you have the energy for, and it’s enough!


Ask the leadership of your church, temple, or mosque for suggestions for changes in rites or religious ceremonies. Possibly a family member can assume the role your spouse held in presiding over a customary event.


If you are truly alone, find your solace and your footing in helping others. This will be a difficult time, but good times will follow. Many of us have been in your shoes. As you now know, that is why we are called “surviving spouses.”


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About the Author

Pat Green
Pat Green

Pat Green is a member of MOAA's Surviving Spouse Advisory Council. She has been active and engaged member of MOAA for 15 years, serving in many leadership roles.