Last week I received seven emails from women who were all worried about the same holiday issue: how to deal with the widower doing something to commemorate the late wife during the holidays.
One lady wrote to me concerned that the Thanksgiving dinner she was attending would include a toast to the late wife. Another woman was worried about her widower wanting to scatter her ashes on a ski slope Christmas Eve. A third was worried about the widower who insists on visiting cemetery Christmas morning and how that might affect his attitude the rest of the day. You get the picture.
Holidays can be tough on anyone who’s lost a loved one. Generally, the first holiday season (and the first year for that matter) without the late wife is the hardest because the widower’s learning how to adjust to life without his wife. Once someone’s made it through their holiday without the late wife, the holidays become the second, third, and fourth time around.
My suggestion on how to handle these situations depends on 1) how long ago the late wife died and 2) how the widower acts during these events. For example, I didn’t have a problem with the Thanksgiving toast because this was the family’s first holiday season without her. Instead of focusing on the toast, I suggested she watch on how the widower treated her during the time before and after that moment. Did he seem focused on the late wife and the past or her and the present? Was he introducing her to friends and family or letting her fend for herself? Was he doing his best to make the day festive or did it feel like a wake? So long as the widower was doing his best to make the day special for her and treating her like number one, I didn’t see a problem with the toast.
I was a little more concerned with the widower who wanted to scatter the ashes onChristmas Eve. First he brought up the scattering the ashes after the two of them had already booked their trip. Second the wife had been dead two years and I found it odd that he was choosing their trip to do it. Sure, it might have been his way to saying good-bye and move on, but doing it during a trip that was supposed to create new holiday memories with another woman seemed like awfully bad timing. My suggestion was to talk to him and see what the reason was for doing it during their trip and there was a better time to do it that wouldn’t distract from the fun trip they were to enjoy together.
I was really worried about the widower who wanted to visit the cemetery on Christmas morning. The day held no significance in their relationship aside from the normal holiday stuff. They weren’t married on that day, she didn’t die on that day, nor did any special event in their marriage happen on that day. It’s just something he had done every Christmas (and every other major holiday) since his wife died five years ago. The woman said that after he visits the cemetery he’s comes home quiet and moody – not exactly the best way to usher in the spirit of Christmas. Where the wife’s been dead five years and he won’t go the day before or after Christmas to visit the cemetery, it appears like he’s still grieving and not ready to move on. I suggested that unless the widower was willing to forgo or delay the cemetery visit, it would probably be best if she spent the holidays elsewhere. In the meantime she might want to think about whether the widower is ready to start a new life with her.
Holidays without a spouse can be tough, but remember that once a widower has made the choice to enter a committed relationship with you, your relationship—not his grief—should come first. While there’s nothing wrong with remembering the past, living in the present, counting our blessings, and creating new memories with a new love is a much happier and productive way to spend the holidays.