How My Holidays Evolved

I remember the first time the holidays came around after my husband’s passing. It had only been three months. My emotions were still so raw, and my mind was still trying to understand what my heart was feeling.

Even though my daughters were grown, I tried to be strong for them. I didn’t want to make the holidays worse than they already were. I made the decision ahead of time that we were not going to ignore the loss, but rather keep him as a part of our holiday season.

And that’s what we did. I felt that for us, pretending he never existed when he had been such a huge part of our lives would only make it worse. Our holidays evolved.

First Holiday Season Set the Tone

During that first holiday, we talked a little about past holidays and our favorite memories. Did we shed a few tears? Yes, more than a few, but that was to be expected. We recalled funny stories because there were many. We laughed through tears during some of those stories, but because we kept him as a part of our day, it made us feel his presence amongst us.

Our friends and other family members followed suit. Once they knew we were alright with mentioning his name, they were alright bringing up his name as well. I believe it was therapeutic for them too since they also missed him. We didn’t make my husband the center of the day or the topic of every conversation. They just knew it was alright to mention him if the conversation warranted it.

Also starting with that first holiday, I intentionally changed our traditions somewhat. That made it different because, well, it was. I believe changing the traditions helped us get through it easier because we weren’t taken back to sadness and emptiness with each thing we did.

New Traditions Evolved

We looked forward to doing new things. As an example, I included games with prizes to win. We had never done that before so it was exciting and fun. This has since become a new tradition that we wanted to keep. I also changed our traditional holiday menu a little.

Time has since moved on for us. It has now been 13 years since his passing. The holidays are not gut wrenching as they were during the first few seasons without him. With time, the pain evolved into fond memories to hold near and dear to our hearts. Our holidays evolved as well.

Some of my memories were just between the two of us and those will always stay between the two of us. I can now look back on those memories and feel good inside without shedding tears. Occasionally, a few unexpected tears still creep up and run down my cheeks because I still do miss him; we all do. I know that’s to be expected.

Grandchildren Know About ‘Papa’

Now, I have grandchildren and that makes the holidays new and different. My grandchildren know about their “Papa” and they recognize the special memorial ornaments on the tree each year. Although his memory is with us each holiday season, because our family has grown to include children, the topics of conversation have also changed. My grandchildren are older now and love taking part in the family games as well.

In addition, a couple of years ago, I purchased a white branch tree and red clip-on cardinals. Each cardinal represents a family member we lost who can no longer be with us physically for the holiday season. My late husband’s memorial cardinal sits on a branch as well as both of my parents and a few other family members. We may no longer to feel the need to talk about him as much as we did during those first few holiday seasons, but seeing his cardinal and the meaning it brings lets us all know he is never forgotten.

Don’t Leave Him Out

The pain will be difficult for you the first year or even the first few years. I believe grief is the price we pay for love. I am thankful I made the conscientious decision that first Christmas to acknowledge the pain and the love and to be alright with him mentioned in some of our conversations. It made it less uncomfortable for everyone.

It’s important to note that loved ones usually don’t know how to handle those situations. They don’t know whether to bring up the person or ignore the topic altogether. On one hand, they don’t want to make you think that person is no longer missed, but on the other, they also don’t want to upset you. It’s the huge elephant in the room and it makes them very uncomfortable. I suggest you take the lead in how you want to handle your specific situation. Others will likely follow your lead.

After Your Holidays Evolved

The holidays can be tough to get through, but know that you will get through them. Try to be proactive. Have some sort of plan in place such as changing one or some of your traditions, deciding what you will and will not bring up as conversations, and be honest with your family members and other guests that day. Try to occupy your mind with other topics of conversation, taking interest in what others are sharing about their own lives. You may feel like you just want to be left alone at home and that’s understandable. However, getting out and mingling with loved ones who are supportive and understanding may be just what you need to get through this holiday season.

Peggy Bell is the author of Life After Loss For Widows: Lifting the Veil of Grief, available here.

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Peggy Bell

Peggy Bell is a retired educator with forty years of teaching experience, as well as an author and bestselling co-author. After retirement, Peggy wanted to do more with her life, while continuing to add value to the lives of others. She became a certified personal development coach. Having been a widow herself and knowing first-hand the pain of losing a spouse, she started an online support group for widows and wrote a book called, Life After Loss for Widows: Lifting the Veil of Grief. Peggy also empowers women who are overcome with self-doubt to discover their inner truths and thrive in life according to their terms. Peggy is a firm believer that it is never too late to go after your dreams. For more information visit

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