NZ Woman's Weekly
Celebrating Christmas after the death of a loved one

Celebrating Christmas after the death of a loved one

Dear Diane,
I was widowed this year. While my husband was ill for a long time and his death wasn’t unexpected, it’s still going to be a strange Christmas for our kids and me. The fact is that because he was more or less immobile we didn’t ever go away and in some respects I now feel really liberated. The problem is that I’m worried the kids might feel I’m betraying their dad somehow if I organise a super-duper camping trip or holiday by the sea. It’s a really funny situation. I feel a great deal of relief but I think the children see things differently and I want to be as sensitive as I can. What do you think?

Ruth, by email

Dear Ruth,
I am simultaneously sorry for your loss and can understand your feeling of liberation. For those people who may be critical of your feeling of liberation, the reality is that you have been losing grief for your husband inch-by-inch, year-by-year and it is entirely reasonable that you now wish to enjoy some freedom. You could check now with your children whether or not they want a Christmas at home. The disadvantage is, with your heart already set on going away, they may make a different decision – or even a different decision from each other. The odds are high that your children may also be ready for an adventure away from home but I appreciate your sensitivity around their loyalty to their dad.

The elegant way would be to find some way of “taking Dad with us” and honouring his memory while you are away from home. A more graceful way could be to make adventure plans but let your children know that you will all be honouring Dad’s memory on Christmas Day, wherever you are. Ask them to each prepare a photo album, storybook, song, poem or some other way of their choosing to remember Dad and be prepared to present it. That way your late husband can also be liberated from the confines of the house and “come on holiday” with you and your children.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: family@nzww.co.nz. Diane’s parenting books are available in book shops.

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