Thanksgiving has been the hardest holiday for me since my husband passed 3.5 years ago.
It has been the hardest because it was his favorite. We spent the third weekend in November almost every year in the mountains of New Hampshire. This was our family tradition. We walked into town every day for hot chocolate, had snowball fights along the way, played in the park that was along our familiar route.
This was our routine, THEN IT WASN’T.
My husband passed in May 2016 and the following November we decided to keep the tradition and go. Every moment of those few days were bitter. Every corner I turned I saw him, every food that touched my mouth reminded me of his love for this holiday meal. The bed I slept in that we shared together, all of it. I was happy to be with my family, but that happiness wasn’t enough to negate the pain of those few days. We even skipped the tradition of going around the table and saying a few words about what we were thankful for.
How were we, my three children and me supposed to find gratefulness in these few months post the tragedy?
The following year, knowing better, I decided not to go to New Hampshire but instead to host. Before my husband passed, we entertained often but that died along with him as it was too painful, not to mention too difficult on my own. I was so grateful that my family gave up their tradition of Thanksgiving in the mountains to come be with us in hot and sunny South Florida. It was a great night, there was music and dancing and my home was filled with laughter and noise. Something that had been missing for a good year and a half.
Last year we went back to New Hampshire and although it was better, I realize it was still tough. We changed things up a little and I switched bedrooms but still my husband’s face was everywhere, and I felt my loss at an even greater magnitude those few days than on any other given day.
This year we changed it up again and went out west and made a little vacation out of the week of my hardest holiday. We joined friends for dinner at a beautiful resort in southern California.
Although I was trepidatious about this new venture I was hopeful that a new routine would help me to accept this day with a clearer head. I was wrong.
Thursday came and I was just as sad and anxious as I had been the previous three holidays. I was able to pull myself together enough to share in a nice dinner with new friends but truthfully just like the past 3 years I couldn’t wait for the day to end. Friday came and I was great, back to my happy self and was able to enjoy the people and surroundings of this beautiful place. It is like someone flipped a switch and I was “OK” again. Seven to eight days a year this becomes the norm; birthdays, anniversaries and some holidays.
What I realized this past week was that I can take myself and move myself anywhere try to change the “routine”, but the reality is grief follows me everywhere on my hardest holiday.
I cannot leave it behind in Florida, I cannot change the bedroom that we shared or forgo saying a few words and expect a different outcome. Grief is stuck on my shoulder following me quietly everywhere I go and some days, particularly those 7 or 8 it decides to start screaming in my ear and deafens me to the point that it is sometimes incapacitating. So from now on or at least until I feel “Ready”, I will do what has made me the happiest on Thanksgiving, I will host and I will open my home to family and friends and allow joy and song back into our lives on a day that has been paralyzing for me these past 3.5 years.Read Next: Do’s and Don’ts For Getting Through The Holidays As A Widowed Parent
I am a widowed mother of three youngish children, ages 20, 17, and 15 and two delicious canines. I lost my husband a little over 3 years ago to a very rare brain disease. I am a former elementary school teacher who has since found solace in putting pen to paper and journaling my story even if only for myself. I hope by now sharing my journey I can help others who are now or who have walked in the same shoes of widowhood.