by Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA
Q: My husband passed away a few years ago, and my kids are all out of state. I have several invitations to come visit for the holidays, but I really prefer to stay at home. How can I convince my kids that I am OK and that they do not need to feel guilty that I am home alone?
A: The holidays can be an emotional trigger for many people. It is perfectly acceptable that you prefer to be home, surrounded by familiarity, routine and memories. Traveling during the holidays can also be hectic and stressful, and some simply prefer to avoid it.
We often associate holidays with family, and there is comfort in that, but it may not always be practical or possible to be together physically. There is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Perhaps if your adult children can understand your reasons for wanting to stay home, it would reassure them. I would suggest finding a way that you all can feel close as a family, even though you may be separated by distance.
Here are a few ideas that might help bridge the distance during the holidays:
- Set up a time for a family call with each of your children, so they know you will connect.
- Set up a time to call and read a favorite holiday storybook to your grandchildren. Skype or FaceTime work very well.
- Have your adult children share a video or pictures of the celebration. Again, FaceTime can be great, if you all have smart phones.
- Send each family a handwritten note with your favorite holiday memories from their childhood, and have them share it with their families.
- Send a favorite family recipe to help them feel connected to you.
- Set up a time, away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday, that you all plan to get together. Having something to look forward to might make everyone feel better about being apart.
It is likely that your children want to know that you feel loved and do not feel alone at the holidays. Perhaps you have local friends, or church or community activities you are participating in. Share those experiences with your kids, so they know you are surrounded by people who care about you. Be honest with them and talk openly, so they can support your decision.
Many people struggle at the holidays, particularly when they have lost a spouse recently. So, if you are feeling a little blue, that is OK as well. You may still need to grieve that loss. Many churches offer a “Blue Christmas” service, that helps people acknowledge and deal with those feelings.
There are also a lot of community service projects during the holiday season, and they are always looking for volunteers. Sometimes helping someone else helps you to refocus your sadness on something positive. Pick a few meaningful activities to engage in, and then give yourself permission to skip some of the parties you might not be up for attending. You may be making new traditions, while passing others on to your kids.
Connecting to others is key, and during the holidays, every commercial and song lyric will remind us of the importance of these relationships and the loss of those no longer with us. When you find yourself home alone, whether by choice, circumstance or a completely different reason, make an effort to identify things that are meaningful to you. Acknowledge your feelings and seek a spirit of peace. Look for opportunities to share joy with others, and your children will see that joy and know that you are going to be just fine.