Widower Wednesday: Where to Spend the Holidays

Just a reminder that the holidays will be here soon. If you have any widower-related holiday situations you’d like me to address in a Widower Wednesday column, send me an email and I’ll start posting them. Last year’s topics included Making New Holiday Traditions, How to Remember the Late Wife during the Holidays, and, Moody Holiday Widowers.


Today I’m going to jump into one holiday topic earlier than usual because it’s already popping up on discussion boards and in my email box. The issue is how much time the widower should spend with the late wife’s family during the holidays. The situations are a little complex but here are three typical situations I’ve been seeing a lot of lately.

Situation 1: The widower has no kids or all of his kids are grown and out of the house. The widower is heading to the in-laws for the majority of the holidays and doesn’t invite the girlfriend to accompany him. When the girlfriend asks about spending time alone or with her family, widower pushes her concerns to the side and says they’ll see each other after the holidays.

My thoughts: The widower isn’t ready for a serious relationship or doesn’t consider the relationship to be on the same level as the woman he’s dating. This is a good opportunity to have a heart-to-heart talk with the widower and how you both feel about the relationship and whether or not this going to be a long term or serious deal. If you’re not on the same page, it’s a good time as any to end the relationship and move on. If the widower claims he loves and wants to spend the rest of his life with you you but insists on spending the holidays without you by his side, don’t stand around waiting for him to return. It’s time to move on.

Situation 2: The widower has minor children living at home. When the late wife was alive, it was tradition to spend the holidays with her family. Girlfriend may or may not be invited to attend. When asked to alter plans to accompany her family or her holiday traditions, the widower is resistant or hesitant to change his plans because the kids need some amount of normalcy after losing their mother.

My thoughts: One of the problems I see in long-term widower relationships is that during the first year there are issues that the girlfriend gives a pass to because. With the situation above, often I’ve seen the girlfriend not try to get to upset the first year it happens only to have the situation repeat itself again and again year after year. Instead of getting upset, this is a perfect opportunity to have conversation about holiday traditions what are the holidays going to be like next year, the year after, or five years down the road? What will happen once you’re engaged or married? Is there a concrete reason the widower won’t compromise and split time with your or your family?

The “I’m still grieving” or “I’m doing it for the kids” excuse is a cop out and a sign the widower has no backbone. Don’t fall for it. You need to figure out the real reason. Also there’s nothing wrong with him wanting to spend part of the holidays with the late wife’s family—especially if minor children are involved. However, every relationship requires some degree of compromise and if you don’t work it out early in the relationship, odds are its going keep being an issue as long as the two of you are together.

Situation 3: The girlfriend is invited to accompany him and the kids with the late wife’s family. While she doesn’t mind spending part of her holidays with them, she feels uncomfortable spending the entire holiday season with them. She wants time to get to know him and his kids better and introduce them to her family too.

My thoughts: Starting a new life often means replacing old traditions with new ones. Letting go of practices that have gone on for years can be difficult. But part of starting a new life means figuring out which ones to hold on to and which ones to replace. When I was dating Marathon Girl and our first holiday season together was approaching, we sat down decided how we wanted to spend our time during the holidays and informed my family, her family, and the late wife’s family of our plans. No one complained. A few years ago because of our growing family we altered our plans again and told my family and her family how we were spending the holidays. Again, no one complained. The result, however, has always been an enjoyable holiday season for the two of us and our children.