Getting Through the Holidays: Tips for Widows

Q. It’s been a few years since my husband died, yet I still dread the December holiday doldrums. I feel like a weight is pulling me down, even though I have an active life. Any words of wisdom?


The month of December, bringing Christmas and the New Year can hit hard even if your mate died quite a while ago. Yes, you’re a veteran of the experience. But that doesn’t mean you escape from memories and thorny issues at this time, no matter how well you’ve adjusted to widowhood. Here’s my philosophy plus some ideas that have worked for me and others I know:

  1. Be honest. Ask yourself, “How do I really want to spend Christmas and/or New Year’s?” Even if you have plans, are you making a choice or just going along with others’ assumptions?  And don’t be surprised if your answer varies from one year to the next.
  2. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or other community service activity. Nothing picks you up and gives the holidays meaning like doing something for others. You also earn appreciation that can light up your life.
  3. Get out of town. An excursion or visit for even a day or two shakes up your routine. The change of scenery can give you new perspective and energy.
  4. Ask around and see what others are doing. They may ask you to join them, but feel free to say no if you aren’t interested. Or start a conversation with, “What was the best holiday season you ever had?” The answers may trigger ideas you hadn’t thought about before.
  5. Write New Year’s resolutions. One widow told me, “Last year was the first time in my adult life that I did not have a single goal for the year ahead. I joked to friends that ‘I must be perfect.’ I realize now that I was a little depressed.” So far, she has two ideas for 2016:  trying Pilates and learning how to use a smartphone.
  6. Focus on New Year’s Day, rather than New Year’s Eve. Host a brunch or go to the movies with friends.


This may be the first year since my husband died that I happily stay home, order in pizza and watch a TV marathon. It’ll be cold outside, and it seems like a wonderful idea. As for next year…we’ll see.


If you have a question for Florence, please email her at

Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist,author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest SympathiesWhen the Man You Love Is Ill,What Do You Say When and Just a Note To Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Anne

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Comment by George Sylves on December 15, 2015 at 2:28pm

Many reminders of happy times with all the Christmas decorations everywhere you look. I will deeply miss my wife this season as it was her favorite holiday, and avoid crowds and questions. I will try to focus on good memories from the past and try not to fear the (Holiday)

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