Getting through holidays with newly widowed mom...
My father-in-law and my dad both passed away this year, and so this is the first holiday season without them for both families.
Clearly, it's going to suck in all sorts of ways. I don't like to show emotion in front of my family, so I tend to just continue to pretend like everything is totally fine. Hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow with husband, my mom, my brother and brother's girlfriend. Christmas will be complicated as we're having Christmas Eve at my house with my mother/brother/brother's GF again, but then Christmas Day we have to go to Ohio to spend with husband's mother and SIL and family, and I feel guilty because we're kind of torn between two grieving families and a limited amount of time.
My mother is the opposite of me in that she has been very openly grieving and depressed, and I feel crappy because I haven't ever been really close to her, and don't really know what to say or do. Brother (24 y/o) seems particularly depressed right now too; I had to beg him to come tomorrow because I figured it would be even worse with just my husband, mom and me. So this is probably going to be the most heinous disaster of a Thanksgiving possible, but I am going to make turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie because Everything Is Just Fine Goddammit.
Anyone have any advice? I can't even just get her drunk, because she has to drive my brother and his girlfriend home... sigh. (I plan, however, to be completely plastered by the time the turkey is on the table.)
No advice really, my heart goes out to you all. Been there. And it's not fine. Don't pretend it is, that makes it worse.
If you can, do something different on the holiday, something as mundane as maybe going out for a drive after, something to make it slightly different. Because trying to do exactly the same is worse.
See, I have been where your mom is (wasn't a spouse, but was someone close, very close, to me) and it tore my heart out of my chest. Traditions were hell. Know that, allow for it, be kind and don't try to make everything better because you can't. It does pass eventually.
Sarah, I don't have any awesome advice... I'd probably do what you are doing... make the meal and do the deal and try to push on through. Someone's got to be the rock.... and tag you're it, at least right now.
My mom is like yours, one who grieves openly, whereas I am more like you, just carry and and try to stuff it down, lol.
My advice would be to skip town next year! Maybe all of you could go somewhere fun.... make a new/different memory or tradition so that you're not stuck in the "empty" space, kwim?
My heart goes out to you. While I obviously didn't know your dad, he seemed like a pretty neat and wonderful guy. I'm not sure what the right words are, but just know lots of people are thinking of you.
We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.
So, so sorry. I went through this last year, with very similar emotional dynamics- mom was a miserable ball of depression and sobbed constantly while I deal with things privately and don't show emotion. Also not very close with her. The situation just sucks all around.
I wish I had better advice but I can only empathize... it's most likely going to suck and you just kind of have to muddle through. I'll be thinking of you.
Hard to say what to do since everyone handles things so differently. All the "firsts" after a loved one dies are difficult.
Some people need to keep the traditions as a way of holding on to that part of their life and loved one. Others need to do something different to avoid the pain of not having that person participating in the tradition. Did you host Thanksgiving before?
I guess my best advice would be just to take care of each other and allow everyone to deal in their own way. Still, I would try to have some positive things for everyone to do - whether that is cooking, getting firewood, gathering to root on a team or whatever.
My situation was different as my mom died and dad had early to mid stage Alzheimers. Mom always did the Thanksgiving meal (though I did a lot of it the last couple of years). My brother, his wife, and I took my dad to a restaurant on Thanksgiving. We all felt the loss deeply and it wasnt "the same", but we did okay. I think it wasnt until the next year that we were able to talk about holidays past (well, brother and I could - dad no longer remembered...) I remember, but try to treasure those memories of earlier holidays without comparing. Sometimes (like now when I would have been cooking with mom) alcohol is required!
Thanks folks! I wish I had thought to go out for dinner instead... that would definitely have been a heck of a lot less emotional, if only because it's public... drat. If I didn't already have a turkey I'd so beg a table right now at the corner pub. Maybe I can do that for Christmas...
I, too, am attempting to get through the holidays after my dad passed several weeks ago. It was unexpected and quite a shock. I was/am very close to both my parents and my sister which helps. We are kinda halfway doing Thanksgiving this year, but sorta not doing it. We are all pretty content with that honestly, I think we are all just trying to get through it and not rub salt in the wound if that makes any sense.
As a widow, what hurts me the most is when people don't mention John. The don't say his name, because they're afraid it will upset me or it will upset them. He was a huge part of my life and will always be in my life and I'll always miss him till we meet again. I love when people mention his name or remember the good times. It makes me smile and happy to know that others still remember him and haven't forgotten.
I don't know how your family is grieving. But, from my own circumstances, mention your dad. It could even be something simple like in a toast or in the prayer.
We lost our dad 9 years ago in September. I think the best thing to do is do what feels right. We did do family Christmasy Christmas that year, and it was nice. There were lots of tears, but we had happy memories of Christmases past and I think we spent our time just honoring those things.
I can see that being really painful for others, though, so you do need to do what's right for your family. That might mean being together, but doing something completely non-traditional. Or, it might mean going traditional, but everyone being allowed to be sad and to grieve. Maybe share memories of your dad regarding Thanksgiving. Let it be known it is OK TO CRY (lay out some boxes of tissues). Everyone and every family grieves differently. The key is to allow it to happen.
For the record, we really no longer to Christmas the same. It just doesn't feel the same, so we tend to go less traditional and just enjoy some family time. Our family is different now, so our celebrations are, too. We still think of our dad (there are still Christmas songs that I can not listen to without bawling), but it's different now, so we allow it to be.
PS- M.K. Smith brings up an excellent point. My mom HATED that people would pretend like my dad never existed once he was gone. But he DID and he touched a lot of people (he was a sweet, sweet man). How dishonoring to not think about him and grieve his absence! Also, my mom often said that she felt like their friends thought she died, too, after he was gone (and why I think she moved back to her home town a few years later). The time when she needed a support network, it didn't know what to do with her. So, just do what's needed, and allow what needs to happen to happen. Seriously. And big, huge, snotty nosed hugs to you!!! (I DO NOT stuff emotions down...and am teary just writing this. I still miss my dad terribly).
My father passed away this summer so I know what you are going through. We did our Thanksgiving already (Canadian) and it wasn't easy but there was so much going and so many people that we didn't really get a chance to think too much.
Christmas is another one though. My dad's birthday was just before it and my mom just didn't want to be around for it so we are all shipping ourselves off to Curacao for Christmas.
One thing that helped my family when my grandfather passed away Thanksgiving weekend was to change up our traditions for a couple of years. We still gathered as a family, but instead of at my grandparents' house, we had it at my dad's house and did different things. It wasn't a huge change, but it was enough; we weren't doing the exact same thing with a glaring, gaping hole in it. We eventually went back to gathering at my grandmother's because it was harder for her to travel, but somone (usually me) always made sure to spend Christmas Eve and that night with her so she wasn't alone.
When my dad passed four years ago in December, we tried not to change things, and it was much worse trying to carry on in the same way. It was much easier to make a change in tradition than to try and pretend nothing had changed.