Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 235, Holiday Help for Widows.
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.
Hi, my name is Krista Weedle, different Krista. My husband died unexpectedly in May of 2022 at the age of 60. I had two adult children from a previous marriage and Dan and I had a 14 year old together. His mother died five days later. I wasn’t one to stay in bed. I kept pressing on with life because I had a wonderful teenager and I didn’t want her to spiral, I didn’t know anybody else my age that had been through this. Nobody really understood what I was feeling or going through.
Doing Google searches, at five months in, I found The Widowed Mom Podcast and binged the entire thing. I joined Mom Goes On in the 11th month. I wish I had joined it sooner. Everyone in the group understands. Everyone loves and supports each other. We learn and grow and move forward together. There is nothing like it. Don’t wait.
Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. So I’m recording this one a little bit in advance as I try to do to give myself some margin. By the time you’re listening, if you listen on Monday when this episode releases, you will have already survived the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States so kudos to you, I don’t know how it went. But I wanted to record this episode, it’s not going to be a long one.
But because I think this time of year as a widow, whether you are a brand new widow, whether you have been widowed for a while, can be so very challenging. And I just want to give you five things to consider that will help, plus some links to some other free resources and podcast episodes and the like.
So also what’s bringing me joy right now, Coaching on the Couch is this weekend, very excited to have 10 of my Mom Goes On clients come to my house. We’re going to spend the day coaching in my living room. I’m bringing in yummy food and then we’re going to go out to dinner to a lovely little restaurant and it’s going to be an amazing day. So super excited about that.
And tonight, sadly, I’ve got to take down the Halloween decorations, so sad. We didn’t have as many trick or treaters this year. I think it’s just because it was so super cold, but it was still fun. It was great to watch my 20 year old daughter pass out candy, we had a good time but time for all the cute little skeletons to come down. It’s okay, first world problems.
Alright, so let’s talk about the holidays. And I want to give you five things to consider that maybe you’ve already considered, maybe you haven’t, but nonetheless, here they are.
Number none, any holiday rules that you have in your brain, any holiday rules that you’ve ever had, any holiday rules that you think apply to how you are supposed to spend the holidays, don’t. They just don’t apply anymore is what I want to offer you. What makes your experience of the holidays right or wrong is not that you stick with certain ways of doing them. It’s not about traditions. It’s not about what you do for gift exchanges. It’s not about where you spend the holidays. It’s not about who you spend the holidays with.
It’s not about the foods you eat. It’s not about that you even recognize the holidays at all. What makes your experience of the holidays right or wrong for you is what you choose to believe about how you’re handling the holidays. And I hope when you hear that, you go from feeling at the expense of the holidays to totally empowered to do them however you want. That means literally rewrite the rules of your holiday experience. And it doesn’t have to be forever, just for this year.
Which means if you are shoulding on yourself about particular traditions, about traveling, about inviting people over, about going to events that you don’t want to go to. If you are shoulding on yourself about how you’re supposed to do it because of how you’ve done it before, you can give yourself permission to completely drop that, completely drop it. Why do we do this to ourselves? I mean, I know why we do it to ourselves, we’re taught to be people pleasers. We’re taught that other people’s opinions matter more than ours.
We’re taught that we’re responsible for other people’s emotions, but none of that is true. So what if you just gave yourself permission to rewrite all the holiday rules and do it the way you want to do it, even if that means doing nothing at all. You’re in charge. So that’s number one. Any holiday rules you thought applied, they just don’t anymore. Give yourself permission.
Number two, if you don’t want to say yes, give yourself permission to say no as often as you want. Now, this may or may not be related to the rules you have about holidays. But so often we keep saying yes when we really don’t want to say yes, we really want to say no. Will you sign up and bring holiday treats to your kids’ classroom? Will you participate in the gift exchange? Will you have people over? Will you come to this party?
All these requests that are being made of us, if you want to say no, say no as often as you want. Say no as much as you inhale and exhale if it feels good to you. That will require you, very likely to be uncomfortable. You will have a vibration in your body that is uncomfortable, unfamiliar, undesirable but that’s it. That’s the price of saying no, is your willingness to allow the discomfort to pass through you and it will pass through you. Most emotions last about 90 seconds if we’re paying attention to them and letting them pass through.
We’re not resisting them. We’re not trying to avoid them. We’re just actively allowing them. They pass faster than we think. And so many of our yeses, our yeses because we don’t know that and we don’t know that all we have to do is allow a little uncomfortable vibration in our body to pass through, a little fear, a little worry, a little anxiety, a little something. But it’s a great habit to be in, especially if because up until now you’ve been living your life with a whole lot of yeses that aren’t really aligned with what you want.
So you don’t need to say yes to somebody who you think might judge you for how you’re handling your grief. You don’t need to say yes to somebody who you think might be disappointed if you don’t. They can feel disappointed, that’s okay. Their disappointment is caused by their thoughts. It’s okay for them to be disappointed in you. Would you rather be disappointed in you or would you rather they be disappointed in you? Chances are somebody’s going to be disappointed and usually it’s us. Say no if you want to say no.
Number three, I really want to give you permission to adjust your goals for the holidays based on how you’re doing. Most widows, if this is your first holiday as a widow, most widows’ first holidays without their person are a complete and total blur. I look back, I was six months in, five months in when Hugo died. My first holiday season, he died in August, also his birthday’s end of December. And I don’t really remember much about those holidays. And I thought at the time I felt like I was doing pretty good and still, I don’t remember much.
And that doesn’t mean anything about me. That doesn’t mean anything about how I was handling grief. It’s just our body’s not back to normal yet, our brain’s not back to normal yet or whatever normal even is. So it’s totally okay if it’s a blur. And again, how you handle this holiday has nothing to do with what you’re going to do in the future. So what would be loving for you this year in terms of your goals? What would be supportive for you this year?
If the family has asked you to go on a Disney cruise and you don’t want to go because that doesn’t feel good to you this year, adjust your goals, even if that’s a normal thing. So I have Mom Goes On, which is the basic six months program, the foundational program. Then I also have Mom Goes On master’s, which is for the women who want to keep going. And in our master’s program recently we talked about authoring our holidays on purpose.
And what I asked them to do and we won’t go through all of that today, but what I asked them to do was essentially to decide who and how they want to be. What emotions do they want to be open to, what values do they want to live into. If they can create their own experience, which we all can, what do we want that to look like? So that instead of feeling at the expense of the holidays we feel empowered. Instead of feeling full of dread and anxiety and worry or ick, instead of just wishing it away, we’ve kind of taken our power back and decided this is how I want to spend the holidays.
So I want you to do that, adjust your goals depending on what’s going on for you. Maybe everything feels super clear and you’re feeling good and you want to do something new. Maybe you feel completely overwhelmed and you really just want to crawl in a hole and you’ve got to modify accordingly. There’s no right or wrong way, except in our brain we get to decide. And I want you to give yourself full permission to adjust based on how you’re doing.
You are the authority on you. Only you know how you’re doing. And if you were to trust that and adjust accordingly, what would you do? What would you not do? What would your goals be?
Number four, I hear this so often and I just want us to stop doing it. Your spouse, your partner, your person may have had opinions about how you handle the holidays. I don’t care. And I don’t say that to be mean. I say that to empower you. Just because your person would have wanted you to do it in a particular way, does not mean you have to do it that way. We love them. I’m sure they were amazing.
Maybe they had some great traditions that worked for them, that they would have loved for you to continue, but it is not bad to focus on what you want to do this holiday season, how you want to do it. And it’s a subtle should that we put on ourselves, a subtle pressure that just doesn’t need to be there when we tell ourselves, they would have wanted me to do it that way. And it goes against how we want to do it right now.
Now, if it feels good to you when you think of how they would have wanted you to do it, I’m all in. It’s when it feels like a burden, it’s when it feels like pressure, it’s when it feels like a little guilt, that I’m not all in. And that’s what I want to bring to your attention. Where in your holiday experience are you doing it the way they would have wanted you to do it, not because you want to, not in a way that feels supportive to you?
And I really want to encourage you to give yourself permission to do it your way. It doesn’t mean they were wrong. It doesn’t mean you didn’t love them. It doesn’t mean you weren’t an amazing person or spouse or partner. It doesn’t mean anything other than you are the author of your experience and you can do it the way you want to do it independent of how they might have wanted you to do it. Steps off soapbox.
Number five, and this might be the one you hate the most and benefit from the most, which is, be willing to feel the feelings. Be willing to feel the feelings. If you need some help there, go to episode three, How to Feel Better Now. I have a process for this NOW, Name, Open Witness, that is simple. You can do it. It’s easy. I have lots of other tools, but this one, there’s already a podcast episode on it, so you can go listen to that one.
So much of what we’re dreading about the holidays is because of the feelings we don’t want to feel. And yes, thoughts cause feelings, and yes, we can think new thoughts. But honestly, it’s just so much easier if we just decide we’re willing to feel the feelings. If we believe that the worst thing that can happen to us is a feeling and we’re willing to feel the feelings. Feelings get easier, don’t they? This is why in Mom Goes On we start with feelings and people never seem to really like it. They like me afterwards. They like me after they’ve practiced feeling feelings.
They like me after they believe they’re good at feelings. But as they’re learning to get good at feelings, they don’t particularly like it. And I get it because most of us weren’t taught how to allow feelings. We were taught how to avoid them, how to judge ourselves for having them, how to try to push them away and shove them down and numb them out with food and alcohol and distractions. But we weren’t actually taught how to feel them. And we have some judgments about emoting.
I just recorded an episode which hopefully you’ve listened to called Unapologetic Tears. We have some judgment about what happens when water comes out of the eye holes in our faces as though that makes us weak or somehow doing grief wrong. So think about the feelings that you might feel this holiday season, maybe, and of course not all of them will be undesirable. Some of them will be very desirable but think about the undesirable ones, for you, different for every person. Maybe it’s sadness, maybe it’s loneliness. Maybe it’s, I don’t know what is it for you? Those are the most common.
And what if you were just willing to feel them? What if you were just willing to let them flow through your body? They can’t hurt you. They’re going to pass quickly. And what that would change is that you wouldn’t have to dread them. You wouldn’t have to resist them. You wouldn’t have to try to do things to distract yourself from them. You could just go into the holidays feeling a little more confident knowing that the worst that can happen to you is a feeling and having already decided that you’re willing to feel the feelings.
I’ve got a client right now, I won’t say her name, I never do. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the holidays, but she lost her husband to a terminal illness and spent a long time in a caregiving role and it was really hard and really painful. And she’s dating again, and now she’s with someone who also has a diagnosis and maybe it won’t turn out to be terminal, maybe it will. But one of the things that she’s doing to support herself as we’re coaching on it is, because she wants to be with him at this point, she wants to support him.
She wants to stay in this relationship, even though it might have her right back in the same caregiving role and be really, really hard. But what she’s doing to support herself is consciously, intentionally choosing to be willing to feel the feelings in the future. Because that’s what’s got her so freaked out and we can understand that.
We can understand why, if she had a super awful experience before, of all the feelings she felt in that caregiving role, that when she anticipates doing that again, she’s going to not want anything to do with that. But she didn’t have the tools that she has now back then. Now she has different ways of allowing feelings. She has different ways of supporting herself. And it still is not going to be easy but it’s so empowering. This is what I want for you, when we choose, I choose to allow myself to feel these feelings. This is what I want.
So maybe you decide, I actually do want to go to my in-laws house for the holidays, I do want that. And when I go there, I am likely to feel awkward. I am likely to feel sad. I am likely to feel longing. I am likely to feel a yearning. Whatever you’re likely to feel, and I’m willing. I’m willing to feel that because this is the experience I want. Because you’re going to feel it anyway, you might as well be willing to feel it. You’re not probably going to escape it. If you do escape it, it’s probably going to feel fake and phony, and it’s going to look like toxic positivity and forced gratitude and silver linings.
And that doesn’t really feel very good either, that feels inauthentic to most of us. What feels most authentic is to acknowledge the truth of how we really feel and then to be willing to feel it, to not make ourselves wrong because it’s there, to not try to escape it because it’s there, to not tell ourselves it’s more than we can handle. But to actually just be willing to feel it.
So in summary, just ditch all the holiday rules you thought applied and give yourself permission to write your own. Let whatever you write your rules for this holiday season, let them be completely unique to this holiday season. Doesn’t have to have anything to do with what you do in the holidays going forward. But all the rules just no longer apply. If you don’t want to say yes, then just say no. You don’t have to say yes. You are the authority on you, so adjust your goals based on how you’re doing. What do you need? What would feel most loving to you? What would feel most supportive for you?
Number four, just because your spouse would have wanted you to do it in a particular way, you don’t have to. You can do it the way you want to do it. You can do that guilt free.
And number five, be willing to feel the feelings. Your whole holiday experience will change if you do that one thing. If you are just simply willing to be present with yourself as you feel what you feel and you let it flow through and you resist as little as possible.
Some resources I want you to know about, one is brand new. We created a Celebrating the Holidays as a New Widow booklet. It’s a little PDF. And inside of it is notes from other widowed moms to you about celebrating the holidays as a new widow, from widows who really get it. And you can get that for free by going to coachingwithkrista.com/freeholidaybook, coachingwithkrista.com/freeholidaybook. It’s just something we want to get in your hands to help you.
You just download it. You can print it if you want. You can keep it on your phone and just when you need a little pick me up, when you need a little understanding moment, grab it, read it. So I hope that really helps you, coachingwithkrista.com/freeholidaybook.
And then I want to remind you that there are other podcast episodes already recorded on the holidays of The Widowed Mom Podcast that are available for you now. So they are number 24 Happier Holidays After Loss. Number 78 Holiday Drama, 176 How We Make the Holidays Harder in Grief and 181 Happier Holidays for Widowed Moms Q&A. And that one is a Q&A that I did in 2022 where people who participated in our Happier Holidays event sent me questions and I answered them. It’s just a whole Q&A episode.
So I hope those episodes are supportive for you. I hope that you will go and download the Celebrating the Holidays as a New Widow book, again coachingwithkrista.com/freeholidaybook. And give yourself permission to do the holidays the way that you want to do them. Remind yourself that what makes your experience of the holidays right or wrong, isn’t anything that exists outside of you. It isn’t other people’s opinions, it isn’t traditions. It is truly what you choose to believe, and you don’t have to make yourself wrong, why would we?
Alright, that’s what I have for you this week. Remember, I love you and you’ve got this. Take care and I’ll see you next time. Bye bye.
If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about even after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence. Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than what you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click Work With Me for details and next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.