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Hi, if we haven’t met already, my name is Tanya Burt. I am a widow and a solo parent.  I lost my husband to a rare form of cancer in the summer of 2014. He was a young 42-year-old, and our children were just 3 and 5 at the time of his death.  

I was lost, living in a fog, questioning everything. I was feeling sorry for myself and my kids, wishing I had other people’s happiness, and when the holidays came around, I was a mess. I didn’t want to think about the upcoming Christmas season, let alone all the future Christmases my husband wouldn’t be celebrating with us. The feeling of having to “put on a face” of being okay for my children and others was exhausting. I wasn’t okay and didn’t think I would ever be. I did the bare minimum to ensure the kids’ holidays were joyful for them; however, it was so very hard.  

Enjoying the holiday season might seem like a pipe dream but I promise, I did it, and you can to.

To help all of the young widows out there who are struggling with enjoying the holidays, I have put together my top ten list of things that helped me start enjoying the holidays again. Use these 10 things to not just survive, but truly enjoy the holiday season.

Download the Holiday Happiness Guide to keep it going the whole season long.

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    It’s okay to be sad.  It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to wish your husband was there to enjoy this season of joy with you and your family. What’s not okay is to live in that feeling 24/7. It’s not healthy for you or your children. Now you need to think of what your husband would want for you. They want you to be happy. They want your kids to love the holidays. Take the time you need to acknowledge your grief, but then make the conscious effort to change that grief into ways you can honor your late husband. You can do this by grabbing a journal and writing down one thing he gave you, taught you, or did for you. Anything that made you a better person. Then, tell him “thank you”.

    Create Your Holiday Plan

    Don’t let the holidays sneak up on you. Put a reminder on your calendar each year to plan out each week leading up to Christmas. Search for local events that you and your family can attend and make sure to capture those dates and buy tickets in advance. Make a list of what will be needed throughout the upcoming weeks (items for school parties, gifts for teachers, work parties, etc.). Get ahead of the game. This will cut out a lot of the last-minute stress and anxiety the holidays can add to an already difficult time of the year.

    Step away from Social Media

    Watching other families celebrating the holidays together can be difficult for some of us solo moms. If you’re one who feels the green-eyed monster of envy creeping in every time you see your married friends and their family posting pictures of their Christmas events, turn off social media completely during December.  Tell everyone you’re taking a FB hiatus and will post all your photo memories of the season and celebrate with theirs come December 26th.

    Serve Others

    Find the true holiday spirit by helping others.  Show your children that there’s more to Christmas than just expensive toys, but rather an opportunity to give back.  Collect items to take to the food pantry, make Christmas cookies and deliver in person to your local first responders, or help serve a meal at a local shelter.  Show your kids what it means to serve others expecting nothing in return.

    Provide Hope for Other Children

    Having the opportunity to give to others is the best gift we can receive. Find those opportunities for your children. Introduce them to programs like the Angel Tree, Operations Christmas Child, or Toys for Tots. Just to name a few. Find organizations where your children can learn more about the needs of others and how they can provide hope by the smallest act of kindness.

    Remember Those You’ve Lost

    Take a day to honor your husband and others you may have lost throughout the year. Make special ornaments, put flowers at the cemetery, or go to eat at their favorite restaurant. Do something that shows it’s okay to celebrate the holidays and grieve for those you lost all at the same time.

    Go Somewhere Else for the Holiday

    For the first Christmas without Elliot, I knew I couldn’t spend it in our home without him. Instead of fighting the grief of being in our home, I took the kids and went to my moms and then my brother’s. It was the best thing for me and gave the kids time to spend with other family members. Which in turn, was good for them.

    For you this might mean taking a vacation or visiting family. It’s okay to say “I can’t stay in the home I built with my husband” and take off for parts unknown. Your kids will love the adventure, and it will give you a much needed emotional break.

    Keep Traditions from the Past, While Creating New Ones

    Just because our husbands aren’t with us physically during this time of the year, doesn’t mean we have to give up all the wonderful traditions we’ve built over the years. Get your kids involved by asking what their favorite family events are and keep those going. Then ask what are things they’d like to start as new traditions. Have a few suggestions available in case they can’t come up with anything.

    For example, a family tradition we keep going each year is that I read The Night Before Christmas from the book their dad was given when he was 7 years old.  As a new tradition, we hop in the car on Christmas Eve and go looking at all the Christmas lights. It doesn’t have to be something extravagant. In fact, I believe it’s the small simple things we do with our children that they will remember as fond family memories.

    Take a ME Day

    The days leading up to the holiday can be just as stressful, sometimes more stressful, than the actual day. Make sure you’re not overextending your emotional currency and schedule a day off from work. Have someone come sit with your kids if you need to while you go do something just for you. Get your nails done. Make an appointment for a massage.  Or just sit in your pjs and binge on your favorite TV show. Take the time to refuel!

    See Christmas Through Your Children’s Eyes

    Each day leading up to the Big Day, take time to sit quietly and reflect on the things that you are grateful for.  Put on some Christmas music, turn on the Christmas tree lights, and enjoy the site and sounds of your kids as their excitement builds. Remember your own excitement as a child on Christmas Eve. Then, remember how precious this time is with your young ones.

    Being a young widow during the holiday season is a tough thing. You have children to think of and your own very real grief to deal with. These 10 things will help you get through the season with a little more joy and a little more happiness. If you are really stressing this holiday season, download my printable Holiday Happiness Guide. Print it out, put it where you can see it, or even carry it in your purse. Put it somewhere you can reference it on those really tough days.