Rebuilding from Loss

The second holiday season of my widowhood was much worse to live through than the first. (This is a common experience, I’ve since learned.) I was really missing my husband and feeling very alone. Just when I really needed some cheering up, a big holiday snow arrived. It was a wet, pretty snow and it clung to every branch. I drank my coffee and watched it softly coat everything it touched with white. It was beautiful and suddenly, I was overtaken with an urge to make a snowman.

My West Virginia childhood provided me with a lot of snow-play experience, so I slid on two pairs of pants and lined my winter gloves with the vinyl ones I use to clean house. The dogs were even more excited than I was, they also wanted to play in the fresh stuff. The minute the door opened they leapt into the soft piles from the porch, bypassing the steps. They ran around and around the yard and marveled at the steaming yellow trails they were leaving in the snow. I often regret that I was not born a dog. They really know how to have a good time, love well, and enjoy life.

As they ran around, a bright red cardinal perched on a branch near the fence and began singing as if God had given him a cosmic cue. This was a very neat touch and one I really appreciated. I hadn’t felt much like singing myself. (Which, if you know me, you know isn’t like me.)

It seemed as if all of nature was conspiring to help me have a good time. I pushed my hands down in the snow and formed the first ball. It took shape and I rolled it around in the yard until it grew fat with snow (I like a plump snowman, don’t’ y’all?). I plunged my hands into the snow again. I was fixated on the rapidly emerging roundness. I was so preoccupied I didn’t even notice the snow had ceased to fall and the temperature had plummeted. The cardinal chirped a warning but I barely heard it as I plunged my hands in for the third time to make the head.

I’m sure my lack of success in molding the head had something to do with the fact that I could no longer feel my hands. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the ball to form an orb. The snow just fell right through my fingers instead of sticking tight. The dogs were whining, they knew it had grown cold and they were ready to go in. But I kept at it. I squeezed and squeezed the white powder inside my hands and snarled at it as it fell back to the ground. I only stopped snarling because I couldn’t feel my tongue anymore.

The dogs were now pleading for mercy from the cold so I gave up and took us all back inside. As I unbound myself from all the winter gear hot tears spilled down my face. (When your face is frozen stiff your tears feel very hot indeed.) I didn’t have a husband and I didn’t have a snowman!

I made a hot tea and tortured myself by looking out the window at my failed attempt. The cardinal returned with his spouse and some feathered friends. They seemed to be watching me as closely I was watching them. Then I realized why. Their feeder was empty. The cardinal was looking from me to the snow torso and back again. I suddenly felt a whiff of inspiration in the air.

Could I rethink the abandoned snow project? Was it possible to make something new from a loss?

Captured by the possibility of it, I filled a cup with seeds and took a knife from the drawer. I pulled on my jacket and gloves and ventured out again. I raked the top of the snow torso flat and poured the cup of seeds onto the top and before I could even get back inside the birds were on it. When I returned to my tea I realized this new feeder was in a perfect place, and at a perfect height, for me to watch the birds from my armchair by the fire.

My snowman incident was a great reminder of the great truths of life: On the coldest of days, it’s grace that gets us through it. (Grace and the willingness to think outside the old box.)

Needing to think outside of YOUR holiday box? I’ve added another day to register for the Surviving the Holidays Program.

Feeling Left Out in the Cold?

Have you experienced any of these feelings recently?

A deep feeling of sadness as signs of the holiday season arrive.
Confusion about what day it is.
A numbness in your spirit.
Difficulty concentrating.

If you’ve had one or more than one of these, join the club. The rest of the world is filled with lights and color while you feel like you’re stuck on the other side of a frozen lake. A “Blue Christmas” is what some people call it. I call it really rough.

The things that used to bring you joy might not this year. Do you ever wonder why? It’s because nothing is the same now. Your whole world has been turned upside down and you’re still trying to right yourself. Your work now is to define a new normal because that old one, the one with him in it, is gone forever.

So you have a choice here. You can embrace the change in front of you or you can ignore it, and hope it goes away. It won’t. I say that because I tried it. It didn’t work too well. Facing the change head on, however, was very freeing and gave me renewed energy for the holiday plan I needed to make so I could not only survive the season but enjoy some of it!

So, do me a big favor right now.  Take a deep breath and try to think of one thing you’ve always wanted to do at the holidays. Maybe it’s go see “A Christmas Carol” or “The Nutcracker.” Maybe you’ve wanted to  volunteer at a homeless shelter on Christmas eve or give Christmas canes to people as they leave church. Or play Secret Santa to a child in need.

When you actualize one of these things that you’ve thought about doing but never have, you’ll create a new pathway in your brain. It’s true. And you’ll reward yourself with a little dopamine and a new way to feel happy.

If you want more ideas like this, and my one-on-one support during the holiday season, then I invite you accept the mission of building a healthy holiday for yourself with the Surviving the Holidays Program. Registration ends tomorrow so if you want to participate, don’t wait!

Pick a Survival Idea

Alright. We all know Thanksgiving can be rough. Here are four survival strategies widows I have worked with have used. Pick one.

Hide out under the covers from 11-22 until 11-25
Book a 3-day cruise that leaves the day before.
Make reservations at Cracker Barrel and have the waitress give the check to your brother-in-law.
Spend the holiday with a bottle of Chardonnay

Well? Which one did you pick? I should have used number 3 but caved and went to the family party without a plan. Big mistake. BIG mistake. Everybody’s having a normal holiday but you.

You’re going to want a real plan, a set of ideas and strategies that let you remain calm and celebrate in ways that are meaningful to you. To your own self be true” is never going to be truer than now, at the holidays, as a newly solo woman.

The good news is that it’s not that hard to make a plan. With my Surviving the Holidays Program, it will be fresh and fun. Plus, you’ll get the one-on-one experienced emotional support you need to use this time to create a new normal and move forward.

In our one-on-one calls, we’ll talk about ways to celebrate that are right for you and fun activities will let you make the plan that works for you. AND, I’ll be there for you with email support whenever you get stuck. You can do this, I want to help. But due to the highly personalized support that this system provides, I have a limited number of registrations available. Registration ends in a few days.

Afraid You’ll Celebrate in a Haunted House?

The loneliness and emptiness of your home at the holidays without your loved one can be overwhelming. Which of these things do you dread more?

Trying to untangle the lights.
Getting the step-ladder out to hang ornaments.
Trying to host the family party without him.
Putting on a happy face.

I have to admit, for my first couple of holidays, it was all of the above.

What I didn’t understand was how much (and how many times) I would be triggered and have an embarrassing public grief burst. Silly me, I would try to do what “we’d always done” and end up in tears, or worse yet, under the covers.

So pick one thing from the list above and figure out how you’ll do it differently this year. Every small step you make to navigate your new normal will give you more confidence and peace of mind.

If you want one-on-one emotional support and a 7 week plan that will keep you calm and provide meaningful ways to celebrate, the Surviving the Holidays Program is for you. Availability is limited due to the highly personalized nature of the program.  Click the puppy to learn more.

What’s Your Holiday Style?

Experts say that your holiday decorating style is as unique as you are! Which of these styles best describes you?

Elegant and unique
Classic traditional, all red and green
Cool and modern – blues and silver
Warm with country charm

Expressing your unique self as you decorate will be more important now than ever! But, you might not have as much energy for it this year. And that’s okay. You’ve been through a lot. Maybe it’s time for the holidays to nurture you instead the other way around.

Maybe this year you just set out a few special ornaments or maybe you ask for a few new ones as Thanksgiving gifts. (A friend of mine did this for her 2nd holiday season without her husband and said it changed how she felt for the whole holiday!)

So, if YOUR life isn’t the same, why would you expect the holidays to look the same? That’s an unrealistic expectation. (Also known as a disaster waiting to happen!)

The 7  week Surviving the Holidays Program gives you the one-on-one emotional support you need to peer into the season and develop a plan that lets you stay calm, celebrate in ways that support you where you are NOW, and have a meaningful holiday season.  Click the Santa puppy

You Can’t Buy Happiness

Do any of these match your reaction to going Christmas shopping this year?

How much wine can I have first?
It all makes me want to puke.
I can’t believe how tacky it all is.
The crowds make me crazy.

I’m not surprised if you picked more than one. I wasn’t much of a mall shopper before he died, but after his death, forget it!

But I have a friend who lives to shop. She loves it. She starts Christmas shopping at Easter (I’m not kidding.). And she gives great presents! She knows the stores and all their merchandise. You can say, “I’d like to get my sister a red sweater with a small ornament on it.” and she’ll say, “Embroidered or applique?” and then take you right to that rack. She has a built-in GPS for shopping. It’s amazing.

For the first few years I stumbled around with the present thing. I didn’t feel like baking so no one got cookies. I didn’t feel like shopping so no one got a sweater or reindeer underwear. Instead, I gave gifts to charity and sent my loved ones a card that said: “Merry Christmas, I gave a gift to (fill in charity here) in your name.”

That’s actually a tradition that I’ve kept. I make notes about new charities I see during the year and do my giving at Christmas. Everyone on my list has more than enough stuff. Of course I go through about 4 pounds of butter making cookies, too, but it took me a few years to get back to that.

What would be meaningful for you to give this year? Or should you just explain that you’ll catch back up next year and take the gift-giving year off?

The Surviving the Holidays Program will give you a plan and it will give you the one-on-one emotional support that gives you the courage to make a new plan . Because, let’s face it, the old days are never coming back.


Feeling a Little Numb?

Are any of these on your holiday happy list?

“Frosty the Snowman” and “The Grinch”  on TV
Making/eating homemade cookies.
Enjoying a fancy Christmas drink.
Listening to the carols and songs.

You may find that you are going a bit numb in the face of all the hoopla. And I want you to understand that this is completely natural.

You’re withdrawing from the season for a reason – you need to protect yourself. You’ve very tender now. That’s why you may feel numb. You’ve been through a huge life change that has impacted almost every aspect of your life.

The holidays could put you in a crisis. But what if you viewed this is a chance to rethink the holidays?

Look at that list again. Maybe you don’t want to do all of these things but is there one of those that would be meaningful to you? Is there something on that list that you could enjoy, even just a little bit, numb as you may be?

Finding happy things is a good thing to do when you’re recovering from death. One of the first things you’ll receive when you sign up for the Surviving the Holidays Program is a guided holiday meditation with lovely music. It uses breath techniques and affirmations that are proven to help you release stress and feel at peace.

If this sounds good to you, check it out. Click on the puppy to learn more.

Will It All Be a Blur?

Do you (pick one):

Put the tree up BEFORE Thanksgiving?
The day after?
A few weeks before?
When they go on sale the week of.

Yay! What’s right for you is right for you! You’ve got this.

When my husband was alive, we always went to our family farm in South Carolina and picked out what we always called a Charley Brown tree. These trees were skinny little facsimiles of the Yule classic, light starved on one side with sporadic branches. The first year we cut one, we got it all decorated and then in the middle of the night, there was a huge crash. The crazy thing was so one-sided it fell over and broke half the ornaments! The cat appeared terrified but we always suspected his involvement. The next year my husband screwed a hook into the wall and with secure Eagle Scout loops and knots he strapped it in place.

But when I mentioned doing the traditional tree hunt the year after he died, our son said, “Oh please Mom, no. Can’t we do something else?” So I started a new tradition and bought one for $25 at the Kiwanis lot.

There may be some things that you need to change this year, too. Sometimes the old ways aren’t the best anymore. When you register for my 7 week Surviving the Holidays program, I’ll be there to help support you by phone and email. Click the puppy dog to check it out.

How Do You Make A Pie?

Time to cast a vote for how YOU make a pumpkin pie. (Just select ONE in 3 seconds or less!)

I open a can and follow the label
I do it from scratch and bake a pumpkin
I buy one at the store
I never serve pumpkin pie

Which one did you choose? Believe it or not, this year it might not matter. You might decide you need to change it up, do something different, avoid the whole thing altogether to avoid squirting whipped cream in your noisy nephew’s face. (Oh wait, that was me, never mind. In my defense, this was after he poked me in the side while I was garnishing the slices and said, “You’re not still sad are you?”)

Well, your family and friends may not push you that hard, but it’s tough to just “make nice” with people over the holidays. If I had made a plan and gotten some support before that holiday season hit, things might have been different.

My new program offers you the help I wanted but didn’t have. Check it out.

Pick a Favorite Thing!

Quick! From the list below pick JUST ONE of your favorite things about Thanksgiving:

Pumpkin Pie
Turkey and Gravy
Football Games
Green bean Casseroles
Family and Friends

So what was your favorite thing? Mine is the pie. Always the pie.

On the first Thanksgiving after my husband died, I ate the whole pie. Which was a problem, because that was what I was supposed to bring to my sister-in-law’s house for the family celebration. But it hadn’t even been a month yet and what I thought i could handle, I didn’t handle very well. In fact, the whole day was a disaster.

Just a little bit of planning makes all the difference in the world. Strong, knowledgeable support makes a huge difference in your holiday outcome. That’s why, for a very limited time, I’m offering the Widow’s Holiday Survival program. If you want to get through the holidays with as little stress and as much personal support as possible, check it out.