Procrastinating during the holidays is Sometimes a Good Idea

Procrastinating during the holidays can help the widow deal with grief and loss on her own time.

After Thanksgiving it’s easy to get caught up in the rush and frenzy of Christmas. Keeping busy may be helpful, or maybe you just don’t feel the holiday spirit after the loss of a loved one.  It’s Ok to not do anything somedays.  Other times, you may find yourself lost in a copy of the book that resembles, “If you give a mouse a cookie” by Laura Numeroff and spend the day chasing squirrels.  That is OK too.  Widows get a pass on living up to the expectations we women have burdened ourselves with.  It’s been six years for me now, but I enjoyed reading my post about the second year when I wanted to get back into the swing of the holiday season, but needed a little help.

Decorating for Christmas was definitely on my to do list, I just kept putting it on the bottom.  The idea of digging out all my favorite memories that I had collected over the years for the Christmas tree, kept me frozen with apprehension.

My first year as a widow I avoided the Holidays and traveled. I ran away and didn’t participate in many of my favorite traditions. The cruise during Christmas week to the Caribbean with my 2 sons was perfect for the first year. I never put out any decorations and I was fine with that. A Different Christmas is OK, especially after the loss of a loved one.

The decision was made to decorate on this year 2 and I was planning to do it.  I was going to do it… after I made myself some breakfast.

While I was making home fries, an omelet and coffee, I searched for a piece of paper so I could make a to do list.  After brunch, my puppy started barking.  I was sure he needed a walk so off we went.

When I got back from the walk I noticed that my yard needed a good clean up.

I took out the power tools – a noisy leaf blower.  I started blowing leaves all over the back yard. Once the deck was cleared and the rest pushed to the sides of the yard I thought I would start decorating inside.

But then I noticed the bird feeder was empty.  I have a thing about blue jays and cardinals.  I feel like  my husband and my dad send them to me to comfort me.  It was time to get some bird food.  That was really important.  So I found the car keys and put on a hat.  Off to  do some shopping.

At the garden store, I picked up 20 pounds of bird seed, 75 feet of white pine roping and a 15 inch fake Christmas tree.  I wasn’t ready to pull out all the boxes of ornaments but felt that the small tree with some pretty new decorations would spruce up the house.

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Remembering loved ones on their birthday

It has been six years since Mike has been here to celebrate his birthday but I always think of him on his birthday, the fourth of July. He loved having his birthday on the fourth as people always celebrated and had a party on that day, even fireworks! This year he would have been 58 and for 30 plus years we shared those holidays together.

Mike always remembered to hang up the American flag on his birthday. He grew up in a family where his dad made everyone stand and salute when the national anthem was played at the beginning of a sports game. His respect for our country was admirable and Mike loved to read about the history of our country. Celebrating our democratic process and understanding the importance of our laws led him to pursue his undergraduate degree at UCSD in political science and then his law degree from Hofstra University.

After living in San Diego for 8 years in our 20s, we moved back to New York so Mike could attend law school and we lived at home with my parents. Those days were wonderful and filled with the laughter from our two young boys. In 2002 we moved into our first home as a family in the same school district where I worked as a kindergarten teacher. It was a 1960s high ranch with a big yard on a quiet street, everything we could want.

While the house was great, it was a bit outdated. The countertops in the kitchen were a pale pink formica. I covered the vinyl floors in the kitchen with checkered black and white, peel and stick tiles. We ripped out the old carpets to discover wood floors which we could not afford to sand and stain yet and the white shingles on the house were turning a deeper shade of gray.

That didn’t matter to us. The best part about this house was that the yard had a pool! It was a large above ground 30 foot in diameter round structure. Most people could stand in it since the depth was about 4 feet. I had never had my own pool before and to me this was the status symbol that we had made it. We had a swimming pool.

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11 Ways to Survive the Holidays after the Loss of a Loved one

11 ways to help survive this holiday season and maybe even find some joy

“I am totally not decorating this year!”

That’s what I said the first time I drove past someone’s festively decorated home the year that my husband died.

That first Thanksgiving without my husband was the toughest.  I was not prepared.  I don’t think I could have been.   My brother in law and his wife generously offered to make all the food and bring it over to my house.  My boys were home from college and my in-laws wanted to see them.

I provided the wine which I started drinking very early that day.  It was awkward.  We all missed Mike but didn’t know how to approach his absence.  We ate.  We talked about stuff.  Some of us drank a bit too much.  We were together and not alone so that helped.

I remember wanting to just spend the day in my pajamas and order a pizza but I went along with the tradition of having family together.  I cried all weekend.  Grief is hard and the holidays only get worse.

This year will be different for many of us as we limit the size of our get togethers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We will be happy to see 2020 shut the door. We are hopeful that 2021 will leave the chaos of riots, the polarity of the election, and the wariness of the virus behind.

For people dealing with the first holiday season without a loved one, this time of year can be simply awful. My first year as a widow I practiced the title of this blog and was a runawaywidow after that first holiday.

For Christmas I booked a week long cruise to the Caribbean with my 2 sons.  We slept together in a tiny cabin with 3 bunks.  Eating and drinking in the sunshine was different from a week in New York and we even swam with dolphins on Christmas morning.  I had been determined to do something different.  In addition, I did not send cards.  I did not decorate my house.  I did not buy presents for anyone. I did not go to church. I just disappeared or ran away from the idea of the holiday. 

Widows get a pass that first year so take it if you need it.

As the dates get closer this year I recognize that I may have waves where the grief hits me again.  They still come unexpectedly but I have learned to ride them. I know to let the feelings hit and that I will be OK.  

 Learning to acknowledge my feelings and not always run away from them has been difficult. I love the analogy that my widowed aunt sent me after my husband died.

That the journey through grief is like treading down a road with potholes.  In the beginning, the holes are big and wide.  It seems you may never get out.  Over time, the potholes are still there, but they do get smaller and come along less frequently.

Knowing that waves of sadness or tears will come, and that “this too shall pass” allows me to keep moving forward. Here are some suggestions that have helped me get through grief during the holidays when it is getting tough.

Continue reading “11 Ways to Survive the Holidays after the Loss of a Loved one”

Can This Halloween Scare You?

Can this Halloween scare you? COVID is nothing compared to stories of souls of the dead coming back to visit.

One Halloween I came home from a friend’s house in 8th grade and told my parents I had a great time at the party. We all wore costumes, dunked for apples, made jack-o-lanterns and then used the Ouija board to have a seance.

My mom, who had not really been paying attention to the tales of my escapades immediately jumped up in horror and told me never to touch one of those boards. She said they were evil. She said the Devil controlled them.

My little brother got scared and my little sister started to cry. That’s when dad stepped in. He was a science teacher after all and I have a vivid memory of him scolding my mother and telling her to cut the nonsense. That may have scared me the most.

Mom was what you would call a born again Christian. While some parents in the 70’s were cocktailing and learning how to disco dance, our house was hosting bible studies, pre-cana counseling and youth groups.

In 1976 my mom spent the summer in the hospital very sick with ulcerated colitis. She almost died. She had “the laying on of hands” done while in the hospital and suddenly was healed. The doctors could not explain it. My dad could not explain it.

Mom spent the rest of her life sharing her story and praising God. She visited churches and prayer groups all over. She spoke publicly at conferences and to bible studies. She felt blessed and was grateful for her life.

Continue reading “Can This Halloween Scare You?”

A Funny Christmas Gift to Remember

The best gifts of Christmas are smiles and laughter with the ones you love

Christmas in our home was always the best holiday. We had record albums playing over and over on the stereo. Mitch Miller and the band would sing a bit and then tell us all to “gather round”. That was our favorite part.

On Christmas Eve my brother would get presents early in the day. It was OK because it was his birthday and that was fair. Usually.

Then later in the afternoon we would have a party for David. Neighbors would come too and then Santa would stop by. His sack would deliver for each of us the first gift of Christmas, then he would scurry on after eating a few homemade cookies – he had a busy night ahead of him so we understood and we hugged our new toys in joy.

A few years later Santa stopped coming to our house early on Christmas Eve. But we were blessed that my grandmother who lived not too far away would visit and spend the night.

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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.

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How to Survive the Holidays after the Loss of a Loved One

How to deal with the holidays as a widow struggling with grief and loss.

“I am totally not decorating this year!”

That’s what I said the first time I drove past someone’s festively decorated home the day after Thanksgiving.

That first Thanksgiving without my husband was the toughest.  I was not prepared.  I don’t think I could have been.   My brother in law and his wife generously offered to make all the food and bring it over to my house.  My boys were home from college and my in-laws wanted to see them.

I provided the wine which I started drinking very early that day.  It was awkward.  We all missed Mike but didn’t know how to approach his absence.  We ate.  We talked about stuff.  Some of us drank a bit too much.  We were together and not alone so that helped.

I remember wanting to just spend the day in my pajamas and order a pizza but I went along with the tradition of having family together.  I cried all weekend.  Grief is hard and the holidays only get worse.

This year will be different for many of us as we limit the size of our get togethers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We will be happy to see 2020 shut the door, and we are hopeful that 2021 will leave the chaos of riots, the polarity of the election, and the wariness of the virus behind.

For people dealing with the first holiday season without a loved one, this time of year can be just simply awful. My first year as a widow I practiced the title of this blog and was a runawaywidow after that first holiday.

For Christmas I booked a week long cruise to the Caribbean with my 2 sons.  We slept together in a tiny cabin with 3 bunks.  Eating and drinking in the sunshine was different from a week in New York and we even swam with dolphins on Christmas morning.  I had been determined to do something different.  In addition, I did not send cards.  I did not decorate my house.  I did not buy presents for anyone. I did not go to church. I just disappeared or ran away from the idea of the holiday.

Widows get a pass that first year so take it if you need it.

As the dates get closer I may have waves where the grief hits me again.  They still come unexpectedly but I have learned to ride them. I know to let the feelings hit and that I will be OK.

Learning to acknowledge my feelings and not always run away from them has been difficult. I love the analogy that my aunt sent me after my husband died and I became an unexpected widow.  

That the journey through grief is like treading down a road with potholes.  In the beginning, the holes are big and wide.  It seems you may never get out.  Over time, the potholes are still there, but they do get smaller and come along less frequently.

Continue reading “How to Survive the Holidays after the Loss of a Loved One”

Moving Forward. My Journey: Widow – Dating – Fiancé

Moving forward as a widow after loss of a spouse. Dating to engagement over the holidays.

No doubt it doesn’t always happen this way.

I never expected to be a widow. I was a working mom and wife.  My kids had both gone off to college. My husband and I discussed different retirement scenarios.  It was going to be easier now.  We could relax a bit.  Not work as hard and maybe do some traveling.

It did not work out that way for us.

One week after we dropped our youngest off at college, my husband was gone.

He would not be coming back no matter how unreal and how unfair and wrong this all was.  He was gone and I would have to come to grips with that, eventually.

I ran away.

After a few doses of reality around the holidays that first year, I was anxious to avoid the whole thing. I did not take out the holiday decorations that Christmas.   Opening the boxes of ornaments and dealing with all those memories was too much for me.  Seeing happy families decorating their homes gave me literal pain in my heart.  I love baking Christmas cookies and sending out cards but avoided those favorite seasonal activities as well.

Instead, I booked a cruise to the Caribbean Islands with my 2 sons for the last week of 2015.

Continue reading “Moving Forward. My Journey: Widow – Dating – Fiancé”

2 Days in London at Easter

Travel therapy continues for runaway widow with adventures in London, England.

Packing for a trip to England in early April can be tricky. Will it be cold? Will it be warm? Well one thing is certain. It will rain. Hours before my departure I found a stylish Michael Kors black raincoat. I wrapped my olive green scarf from Thailand, complete with elephants, around my neck and tossed a few lightweight dark colored sweaters, black pants and comfy black boots in the suitcase. I reread my blog post on how to alleviate anxiety while traveling. I was ready for London.

International flights from JFK are the way to go. The roads from Long Island and the terminals are well lit and labeled. Long term parking is s bit of a maze to reach but once parked you easily board the train which circles the airport and brings you directly to your terminal.

We flew Virgin Atlantic and the overall experience was fine. We had a nice selection of movies to watch, 2 small meals on the direct flight to London and unlimited cocktails!

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HOLIDAY EXHAUSTION

The lights on the houses are pretty and I do like the holiday decorations in my home but, I can not handle the overwhelming sense of tiredness I am feeling today.

I have been moving forward at a good clip this past year.  I did some traveling.  Made some new friends.  Gained followers on my blog.

In addition as a widow, I continue to be the only parent for my two sons who are now home from school.  I teach Kindergarten full time.  I maintain and run the household which recently included another infestation of squirrels and purchasing a brand new boiler.

Add to that the shorter, colder days.  The stress of buying presents and planning celebrations with others.  Going to parties and rushing around after work.  Oh, and did I mention I just joined a gym because my last annual visit to the doctor showed I needed to make some positive changes in my lifestyle, like exercise?

No wonder I am exhausted.

I would really like to just curl up in bed, in a dark room with my puppy and take a long winter’s nap.

Well, this is a short post –  all the time I have for today. I need to take Harry for his walk, mail out the 19 Christmas cards I decided to do at the last minute, put on my pajamas for Kindergarten (It is pajama day) and of course an ugly sweater for the staff breakfast.

I just wanted to thank you all for reading.  I have been nominated for 2 awards this past week.  One as a travel blogger and one as a widow blogger.
Widow Blogs

That made me feel really good and I hope that my writing is hopeful and healing for others as it has been for me.  If you have any tips for extra energy this time of year, please comment below.

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