Surviving My First Big Holiday As A Widow With The Help Of My Squad

I am steeling myself against the upcoming holidays, the first since the loss of my husband. Each milestone is a weight that I carry. I feel like Sisyphus in Greek mythology being punished and forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only to watch it roll down for all eternity. Those are the ups and downs of grief. You have to get the boulder up the mountain, not sure if it will stay there or put you back into a state of pain again.

The anticipation of Thanksgiving is bad enough, but I feel this tremendous burden of having to go through the day without turning into a blubbery mess. Thanksgiving is so family-oriented. Peter used to love to go to his sister's wonderful dinner. He adored eating the delicious turkey and stuffing, and all the traditions surrounding it. Let's face it, he loved to eat and this is a favorite holiday for fressers, aka those who love to eat. The holiday season was also about the Raiders! We wore silver and black whenever they played. Peter screamed at the TV and my son and grandson delighted in his enthusiasm for a team that never really won. Wow, a few wins this season and an almost-win against Pittsburgh ... he would have loved that.

Thanksgiving is the first big holiday I will experience as a widow and it brings up the year of the firsts. I will have my first Chanukah, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and then our anniversary. How the hell will I get through that one? The very thought of this turns my stomach. We loved giving gifts to the grandkids. We trolled the aisles of Costco on our early Sunday jaunts and looked for fun gifts that they would love. Speaking of Costco, Peter couldn't wait for the cashmere sweaters to arrive and he would buy them for his nephews who didn't wear sweaters or even like cashmere. But it was a Peter Grad tradition, which I will miss, even though cashmere is too hot for Southern California!

Peter and I always had a "no gift" policy. He would ignore this declaration and immediately visit my favorite jewelry store to pick out something a little too sparkly. Then we would return it together and I would get something I liked. I would get him a sweater from his favorite store, which he would try on and then we would go back to his favorite store and return it. This was our tradition and I will miss it. I will miss it and miss him even more than I can express.

Then I remember that I can't live in the future while I grieve. I have to live in the present. I have to live one second at a time. I can prepare for the pain of the holidays but I can't go down the road too far because if I do, the boulder will fall down again and I cannot focus on healing in the present.

I decide to have a Plan B in place. In case Thanksgiving is too hard, I will go home and watch a movie and sob into a bowl of popcorn. I could also not go and really feel sorry for myself but I scrapped that plan since I want to be with my family. Whatever I do, I know that I am not being selfish, I am just caring for myself.

The holidays will never be the same joyous experiences. But, I have to believe in some part of my being, that I will find a new way of celebrating. Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and hopefully correct choices so I will take small steps forward even if I have to fall back a few times. The one constant I have is my friends, who I have been calling my posse. They listen, they nurture, and they keep me going. My grandson says I should call them my squad. I looked up squad online and the definition is "a crew, posse, gang: an informal group of individuals with a common identity and a sense of solidarity." That sounds like just the support team I need. So I dedicate this quote from Cole Porter in his wonderful song Friendship to my squad:

"If you ever lose your mind, I'll be kind
And if you ever lose your shirt, I'll be hurt
If you're ever in a mill and get sawed in half
I won't laugh
It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship
When other friendships are up the crick.
Ours will still be slick!"

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