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How to Master Self-compassion during the Holidays

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, and then sometimes it isn’t.

During the month of December emotions are soaring and it is time to acknowledge this and make space for both the joy and the sadness.

The first and second holidays after loss are extremely difficult. No cheery songs exist on the radio wishing for a fast forward button to January, but that is the true feeling of so many who struggle.

If you are like me, you may want to runaway from it all. I did that for a few years in anticipation of the holidays and the sadness that comes with missing someone. Planning something different to do for holidays and anniversaries helped me hold off slipping into a deep depression at the time.

But I’ve learned something in the 7 years since Mike died.

It is OK for sadness to exist with joy.

In fact, I still have moments of sadness over memories of Mike. Now that my sons are older, I have grief over no longer having little kids at home to shop for and create that magical Christmas. Tears fill my eyes when I think of my mom’s hugs with her colorful holiday scarves and jingling costume jewelry. I even miss the way my dad reminded me of Santa Claus as he was always bigger than life itself. The memories are nice but they can bring a feeling of sadness as well.

And that does happen, but life goes on and finding moments of holiday joy may be different now, but still good.

I’m leaning in to being more present in my life. I think, just like anything else, being present takes practice. I’m attempting to practice daily meditation and yoga as a way to improve my attention. In conversations with others, I am trying to be a better listener. Listening to podcasts that offer guidance like “Calling on your awakened heart” by Tara Brach help set the intention toward mindful living.

Appreciating the outdoors during my daily walks with the dog or on my own keeps me grounded. I appreciate the sights and sounds of the season. I love looking at the different wreaths and decorations in my Florida neighborhood and smile over the bedazzled golf carts. It’s important to not be so busy that you miss out on all the efforts we make to brighten the season.

I am aware of aging more these days.

I will be sixty next year and I can’t stop thinking that my dad died at 61. His diagnosis with lung cancer as a lifetime non-smoker still haunts me.

Yesterday I played pickleball with Mary who is 81 years old. She scolded me that I needed to call my shots as she sprung after the ball. “OK,” I replied as I tried to focus on that yellow plastic ball with holes.

It makes me think about my mom who passed at 79. She had a fall on her way to the mailbox and was never quite the same. Why can some people be so active in their eighties and others die so young?

Pete fell last month while lifting the garage door and broke his wrist. It’s been a painful healing process these past few weeks with physical therapy in the future.

A new neighbor, younger than me, recently slipped on a spill in her kitchen. Not only did she break her wrist, but when she fell her rib broke and punctured a lung. She was in the hospital for at least a week.

I read the sad news on Facebook that a classmate of mine fell last week. Not sure about the details, but he died.

We don’t know when our time here will be over.

Life is too short to feel bad about yourself.

Embracing self-compassion is something I have been working on this month.

For years I have been trying hard to make improvements in my health and weight. I start out with great intentions. I buy the right books or sign up for the best programs only to sabotage my efforts and feel like a failure, again.

I have more important things to do than spend time feeling like a failure for not losing a few pounds.

Wondering what my purpose on earth is, I asked.

I was told it is to do what brings you joy.

That seems a little simple but it was explained that you do what resonates with you. What feeds your soul? Do what makes you happy.

I love that. What feeds your soul? What makes you happy?

Recently I went into a classroom to volunteer and read a book. I had never been to this school or met this teacher or her class. I was a bit nervous. What if they didn’t like me or listen to me when I read the book? But when I stood in front of the class and read that story, I was happy. It was like riding a bike. My 30 years of teaching came back to me and I was in my element. I had the best time and they all appreciated the visit and our time together too. I can’t wait to visit again next month.

Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to appreciate what really makes you happy.

Maybe I didn’t lose those extra pounds but I found a way to smile this month.

Life is full of ups and downs. Sadness and joy can exist together.

Maybe you didn’t get the perfect gifts, or make the homemade cookies. Did you skip holiday cards this year or pass on that party you didn’t really want to go to? Don’t feel bad.

Hold space to care for yourself. It is easy to get spread too thin about now, so try that 5 minute quiet time of mediation or walk outside for yourself. I hope you can find something to smile about.

And just remember, as my mom said about those really bad times, this too shall pass.


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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6 Responses

  1. Betsy says:

    Hi Kristin, I enjoyed your post and missed seeing you today hopefully we can get together next month. Happy holidays slow down and take it all in!

  2. Margaret says:

    Hi Kristin, thank you for posting! A good reminder to see the little things that bring us joy!

    • runawaywidow says:

      In this busy season sometimes we need reminders to cherish the moments right? Thanks so much for reading and your comment. Xo

  3. Jill says:

    You are such a good writer. I have been reading your posts for 7 years. They always seem to resonate with me. Thank you and please don’t stop!

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