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Here it comes again -- the fourth one for me, and it just doesn't get any better.  I think mostly it's the why-can't-you-just-move-on look I get when I try to explain why I can't face another family get-together.  How can I get them to understand how painful it is to be around all the couples in my family?  Of course I'm happy for them, that they have the loves of their lives beside them at the "happiest time of year;" but it's another painful reminder that my sweet husband is no longer beside me; that I arrive alone at the family gathering and I leave alone.  Watching a sister open a gift from her husband, be thrilled and throw her arms around him and kiss him...

And then there's the guilt:  How can I be so self-absorbed?  Why can't I just be happy for them all and ignore the ache in my heart?  But those are two separate things!  I AM happy for them, but that ache grows more acute each year.  And they have no idea that I'm drawing on all the strength I can muster to keep from welling up with tears when that certain song is played, or when I see the ornament on their tree that Scott and I gave them, or when his favorite dish is passed at table.

Yesterday my sister said, "You're coming to our house for Christmas, right?"  She named off all the family couples who'll be there...sigh.  I know they are trying to be kind and inclusive; but how do you explain that there's just no way to be "included" in a group to which I so clearly don't belong? Where can I go to get away from all the togetherness that I can no longer share and that I miss SO much?  I just want to be allowed to stay at home with my pups and remember 42 beautiful Christmases.

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First of all, a reality check:  Yes, there are people who find this "the happiest time of year," at least I think there are.  I have never known any of them.  ;-)  

For many people, it's a hassle of shopping for gifts we can't afford for people we don't like or who don't need anything or children we hardly know.

But there's a bigger issue here than just Christmas:  Even those of us who have made grimly determined efforts to not let our loss destroy our ability to be happy for other people can find it difficult to deal with celebratory occasions.  I have this with my sister, who thinks that telling me about her 15 years in marriage counseling is somehow consolation for telling me "We have a really great marriage" and dismisses when I feel lonely or sad about not being anyone's #1 with "Well, everyone's different."  Of course she thinks my situation is karma for mean things I said to her 30 years ago, ut I digress,

The only way to explain to your family is to just explain it.  Just tell them it's very painful when everyone else has a partner and you don't.  It's not that you're envious or jealous or resentful, but it just underscores your situation.  They won't get it, they can't get it.  So when they don't get it, just say "You can't possibly get it unless you've experienced it, and I hope you never have to."  Then ask to be invited over after the holidays, or set up times after the holidays for them to come (not all at once) to YOUR house.  Then stay at home with your pups, or have "Jewish Christmas" (yes, I can call it that because I am a Member of the Tribe):  Go to a movie (NOT a rom-com) and then get Chinese takeout.

That's wonderful advice, Bergen! Somehow it's empowering to be given permission to do what feels right to me.  And Chinese takeout instead of the usual family fare sounds just fantastic.  Thanks so much!

If staying home with your pups is what YOU want to do, Lark, then you should do it! I think we each have to do what feels right for us, even if it goes against what others expect that we “should” do, especially if they haven’t had the widow experience. Sometimes it’s so much more peaceful and comforting to be on our own with happy ,e,pries, just pottering about, than trying to keep a brave face in company. Think “what do I really feel like doing?” And go with that. You don’t owe anyone anything and don’t have to live up to their expectations. I’ll raise a glass to you on the day from England here with my cat and dog  

Thank you, LP.  I love what you wrote about not owing anyone anything!  I try to attend things, but inevitably as the date approaches I'm feeling more and more apprehensive and filled with dread.  As I told Bergen, permission to do what I really feel like doing makes me feel better already!  Thanks so much.

Lark....what they said!   Your family thinks they are doing the best for your by insisting that you spend the day with them.  They do not have any idea what you are feeling...and quite frankly, until I went through this, I did not either.     Maybe you can just go over for a bit to see everyone...make sure you have a deadline where you must leave so you can be firm about getting out of there.   Come after all the presents are opened, maybe just go for desert?   Say as much or as little as you want as an explanation.   

Keep us posted on what you end up doing.  I think we all want to know what you decide to do.

I am thinking about Chinese this year for myself.  Have never done it, and think it's time to give it a shot.

Thanks, Gary'swife!  This is actually getting kind of exciting - have already found two good Chinese restaurants near me that are open on Christmas, and I'm considering one of the meal delivery services so I don't have to walk in alone to pick up dinner; plus, I could give a nice holiday tip to the driver and maybe make his/her Christmas nicer.  Now, let's see -- chardonnay or chenin blanc?

I truly appreciate your responses, widowed friends.  I'll definitely share what I end up doing!

(P.S. A friend who knows a local two-time lottery winner told me she won both at Chinese restaurants!  Wouldn't THAT be something?!)

Lark...Oh, how exciting!  A new adventure.  Glad you have embraced the suggestions.  This is indeed, a great group.

Lark i really admire you for your decision..you are really brave! I am not ready to pass alone Christmas... I think memories should overwhelming me...best wish for your day with chines food...ciao Roxi

What makes our community here at Widowed Village so special is that we understand that, even though we have that one awful thing in common, we all have individual responses to dealing with the challenges of widowhood.  Bergen's and LP's suggestions helped me formulate a plan that makes me actually look forward to Christmas for the first time in five years, and I'm so grateful that they took the time to make those suggestions.  I don't doubt that memories will overwhelm me a few times that day but, for me, being able to break down when I need to and cry a while feels like what will work best. 

I don't know whether grief is dealt with differently in European countries than here in the U.S., but I have found that people are embarrassed if I cry and I've even had people frown at me as though I'm bringing them down and shame on me.  Here -- at least in my experience -- people don't want their normal Christmas celebration disturbed by someone who is sad.  It's just too hard for me to hold it together and I do understand that others don't want to be reminded of human mortality at holiday time.

My husband succumbed to colon cancer on January 17, 2016, so he was -- as a local priest called it -- "actively dying" on Christmas.  No one came to our home -- not even our daughter with our two precious little grandchildren, who lived only a mile away.  To say it was a grim day is a massive understatement.  My poor husband tried to hard to be brave.  He even said, "Next year I'll be healed and we'll have the best Christmas ever!"  So for me it feels like I've used up all the strength I used to have, and the freedom to be with my pups and my husband's memory feels so good.

I hope that where you are, Roxi, you are surrounded by family and friends who love you very much and who accept you however you feel at any given moment.  And I hope that having that kind of support will help you through the overwhelming memories.  Ciao!

Lark, my husband and I had a weird tradition of going to an Indian restaurant on Christmas Eve every year.  We kind of fell into it one year because it was open, and it became a tradition.  In 2011, we decided to surprise my father in Florida for Christmas after he'd completed chemo for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  I managed to find an Indian restaurant down there and we had our Christmas Eve Indian dinner outdoors in a balmy 75 degrees.

The first Christmas Eve after my husband died, I wasn't about to go out for Indian food alone, so I made chicken saag for myself with naan and basmati rice -- and it was just sad and depressing.  So that was the end of the traditional Christmas Eve Indian dinner.

I think part of making the new life is about making new traditions to replace the ones that now seem sad.  I still think of the opening day of the baseball season as the true start of spring the way we used to, and I went to see all three extended versions of the "Lord of the Rings" movies on the big screen the way we would have, because those things don't seem sad.   Making new traditions doesn't dishonor the old ones; it just helps us to find some contentment in this life.  

I'm glad you have your pups and I'm even more glad that you are going to be able to find some small joy in this holiday season.  xoxo

Lark, it’s doubly hard your husband died around Christmas because you are surrounded by all the “cheer”, whether genuine or manufactured, of everyone else looking forward to the holiday season. It’s galling, yet peoples mean well. 

I find it interesting what you say about the difference between the US and Europe. I’m American but I’ve lived in the U.K. for 40 years. Here people are generally repressive about their feelings - stiff upper lip, must press on and all that - but it’s changing a lot. Perhaps with Americans it’s the idea that life is perfectible and one should always be positive (a sentiment I never shared) and so any signs that a person is not happy makes them uncomfortable. If I’ve learned anything from these past 22 months it’s that sadness is part of life and sometimes we have a right to be sad. My husband deserves to be missed and mourned.  He could still cry about his first wife’s death even 25 years later. He felt it deeply and acknowledged it. That part of what made him so special. 

I hear you Lark and am so sorry. This is also my fourth Christmas without my husband. I am glad I won't be around my sister, for the same reasons as you. They've been married forever and he buys her extravagant gifts. I don't want extravagant gifts, just my husband.

Though I would normally feel somewhat guilty like you, I feel b"%t#y today, so my guilt mechanism is on hold, lol.

I got one of those photo cards from a friend. First, I think it's ostentatious to send a personalized card with their pic from one of the islands, probably Hawaii on it. See, told you I was b"%t#y today. When she asked for my new address in a text, I deeply felt like I wanted to say, don't bother sending me a card to tell me to have a nice holiday. They will never equal what they were when I had a loved one's arm around me, as in their picture.

Sometimes I just want to be left alone to wallow in my pity. Exclusion would be fine. Christmas with puppies sound like a fabulous option.

Hugs to you.

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