Losing your partner around the Christmas holiday season must surely be the worst time to experience such a loss. If young children are involved there will be twice the heartache as they look to you to fill the space left by your partner.
To deal with this there are two options: the first is to go away and have a completely different Christmas experience; or you can carry on as usual but compensating for the absence of a mother or father, as best you can.
When my husband died suddenly, two weeks before Christmas, I had plenty of offers from family and friends to join them on Christmas Day. At the time, my daughter was 13 and my son, 10. We talked about what we wanted to do and staying home seemed, to us, the best option. In a funny sort of way, by doing this we felt that we were including my husband, and by carrying on as usual we thought that this is what he would have wanted. Certain Christmas tree decorations he had bought for that Christmas have survived, 20 years on, and are still cherished.
No one will be expecting you to rush around buying presents, but with children at home, especially young children, you will not want to disappoint. If there’s time, then of course, shopping online can be hugely helpful. I was totally over -indulgent that first Christmas but it helped to bring some cheer into the holiday. Playing some family-oriented games, even if you’re not a great fan, is a good way to involve everybody, and will help to take your mind off of any grey moments.
Going away, especially if you don’t have children, can be a blessing. Allowing yourself the luxury of some quiet introspection and thinking about how you might cope with the future can be therapeutic and will help to make you feel in control. If the death was unexpected, this is important.
Staying with some caring friends can be a welcome indulgence. Or, as a practical solution, you might prefer to stay in a hotel. However, I strongly recommend having a friend or two close by, as having a shoulder to lean on during any low moments will offer some comfort.
Christmas is a time for thinking about others and you will find people around you sympathetic and understanding. They will put themselves in your position and will relate to how you’re feeling – especially if they have experienced a similar loss. If you have opted to stay home alone and this upsets close family or friends who want to help, you shouldn’t feel bad. This is your loss and how you deal with it is up to you. However, making a few phone calls over the holiday to reassure your loved ones you’re OK is better than totally cutting yourself off.
If after the holiday season, you have coped well, then you can feel that the first anniversary has passed and you will be ready for any that follow. You have proved to yourself, and others, that you can cope and the knowledge of this will help you as you go forwards into the New Year, which I trust will offer peace and contentment in the long term.