Setting Goals for the Holidays after Loss

Setting goals for the holidays after loss of a loved one are helpful. Finding ways to honor family and survive one day at a time.

Thanksgiving is coming up this week and I am definitely in a different place than I was 4 years ago.

I am treading lightly towards this holiday season.  In some ways it will be wonderfully new and fresh.  I am recently married and we will enjoy our holiday season together and start to create some new traditions.

However, the elephant in the room is the recent passing of my mom.

I haven’t really let myself grieve about that yet.  Sometimes we runaway from our feelings without actually traveling to the opposite side of the earth and I think I have been visiting that place the past month but it is starting to catch up with me.

My mom was a published author and thus a prolific writer.  I had not intended to read any of her many journals we saved, but I did.  I have just finished reading another emotional year from her life.  The year is 2000 and we threw her a surprise 60th birthday, my parents sold our childhood home of 28 years and my dad was diagnosed with liver and lung cancer.  She writes daily in this book about the struggles of chemotherapy and then laser cyber knife treatments.  Her faith that all will be well and dad would be healed were hauntingly positive.  Knowing the end, dad died 2 months after her last entry in this book, brings back a heavy sadness and ache in my heart.

And I can’t believe she is not here to discuss these reflections and memories with me.

As I read her perspective on Thanksgiving that year, she was appreciative that I had hosted at my house.  My kids were 4 and 7 that year.  We had Mike’s parents up visiting for Thanksgiving as well.  Funny how I don’t really remember much about all that.

It was a busy time.  I was working full time.  Mike had just started a new job after recently graduating law school.  Of course we hosted the holiday and family stayed in our small 2 bedroom apartment with us for the week.  People made side dishes.  Picnic tables were brought into the den to seat everyone and all was good.

That first Thanksgiving as a widow was probably the worst holiday.  I had wanted to just eat pizza and watch football on the couch with my sons.  Mike’s mom and dad had just moved from Florida where they had lived for 25 years, back home to New York.  They were devastated by the loss of their youngest son and wanted to be close to family.

So we “did” Thanksgiving.  We all came to my house.  I was too overwhelmed to cook – which was what Mike usually did with his brother anyway for holidays.  We all came together and ate.  We didn’t really know whether to talk about Mike or not, so we didn’t really.  I had not heard the expression to set a chair for a lost family member.  Not sure that would have helped the situation.

We made it through the holiday and then I think we all went back to our own beds and just cried and cried for the rest of the weekend.  I know that is what I did.

So here we go again.  This past year not only did my mom die in October, but Mike’s mom who I was very close with, died in July.  Oddly, they had both attended my wedding in June.  I had gotten beautiful corsages for both my moms with white roses and they were happy to be a part of a happy celebration.

I am glad we had a big wedding this past summer.  It was not our original plan.  Talk of walking into town hall and then taking a trip had been a recurring idea.

But as we get older, it seems we get more invitations to attend funerals and doctor appointments and less of the fun stuff.  So having a summer beach wedding to celebrate our marriage with family and friends turned out to be the highlight of the year!  At least in my book.

Life goes on for the rest of us.  Since new hubby recently had hand surgery he is out of commission for making the big turkey dinner.  No worries.  I am really good at making reservations!

We will be enjoying dinner with my son and a friend and I am sure I will have lots of opportunities to cook over the long weekend.

For Christmas this year we have plans to be with my sister in Florida again.  For years I have hosted Christmas dinner at my house.  My mom had always spent the holiday with us.  Even last year when she changed her mind last minute and decided to fly down with my son and join us in Florida for Christmas week.  So glad she did, as that was her last Christmas.

This year our plan is to drive south with Harry the dog and my mom’s Christmas dishes.  We will have dinner at my sister’s house and then spend some time in the pool and hot tub. It’s Christmas in Florida and that’s what you do.

We will stay in mom’s condo as we are still going through the logistics needed to sell her place. Advice to my widow friends with property.  Leaving a property to family members in a will is great, but it is much easier to put the property in a TRUST in the children’s names.  We now have to wait several months before we can sell the condo while the property is in probate and continue to pay HOA fees which is something none of us had anticipated.  The things we learn as we get older.

So as I write today to figure out where I am on my life’s journey and what I want most from this holiday season I think I can narrow it down to just a few things. After loss of a loved we need to give ourselves space and time to miss them.  But we also need to set goals.

  1.  Break a sweat: After reading about my dad’s cancer and living through the past year of my mom being sick I am more motivated than ever to make some positive life changes.  Doctor appointments are scheduled.  Supplements are ordered. More fruits and veggies in our diet. And we just joined a gym so there is no excuse here!
  2. A Happy Home:  As newlyweds, we are still so appreciative of each other.  Finding love again is amazing. Time spent together with good food, festive holiday decorations and cuddling on the couch with Harry the dog is always the best.  Keeping our home warm and full of love is a priority.
  3. Show up: This covers so much.  Connecting with others this month. Social engagements.  Visiting family.  Calling friends or writing cards? Teaching at school.  Walking the dog.  Parent / teacher conferences.  So much happening.  It is important to show up and be present.  If I need a time out, take one. Maybe some time to write in my journal. But when I can, show up.

So those are my goals for the holiday season.  I will keep it simple and easy to remember.

Setting Goals for the Holidays after loss



Author: runawaywidow

At the age of 51 I unexpectedly became a widow. For the first 6 months after my husband died, I was in shock and numb. I journaled and with the help of friends, family and therapists was able to get back to living my old life, even if it is now very different. Before I was married, I had spent a semester in England and backpacked around Europe. My husband and I moved from New York to California for 8 years and started a family. Travelling took a back seat to raising a family and going to work everyday. Since the loss of my husband I have visited a lot of places with family and friends and took a solo trip to Thailand. I am enjoying sharing my stories and adventures as well as some of my insights to how I am traveling the path of being a widow. I hope to share my stories and adventures as well as some thoughts on being a middle aged widow. While I have some great experiences traveling to Thailand and cruising to Central America, some of my adventures involve a trip to see a Broadway show in nearby Manhattan and a shopping trip at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I can inspire anyone to go out and continue to live a good life that would be my greatest accomplishment.

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