Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day: When Grief Won't Let Us Have A Long Weekend

For those of us loss professionals, going into Memorial Weekend…well…it kind of sucks.

The people we know don’t realize how hard it actually is. The difficulty of this holiday is not as obvious as Christmas. It’s not as heart-wrenching as a birthday. But just because someone wasn’t born or resurrected on this day…it still blows.

Any holiday that is considered “family time” is a speed-bump. Actually ANYTHING that’s considered family time is a speed-bump. This can include something as simple as sitting down to dinner together or taking a Sunday drive. Family time for us just points out that there is something glaringly wrong with our picture. Something huge is missing. For most of the people we know, they’re just looking forward to a day off. Very few people realize…we never get a day off. Grief is a boss that works us 24/7 and overtime on holidays.

When we gather with our friends and family, we all (I think) go through dreaded moments when we’re uncomfortable. We stand there alone (even if we are surrounded by people) and feel kind of at a loss for what to do with ourselves now that our spousal appendage is gone. It’s awkward for us even if everyone else doesn’t give it a second thought. And I have bad news…I’ve been at this game for 3 years and I still feel that way. I’ve gotten better at jollying everyone along because no one likes a grumpy widow at their bar-b-que but inside I’m ready to ditch the whole party and snuggle up with Ben & Jerry (yeesh…that sounded kind of slutty, didn’t it?).

Now, I didn’t start this blog as a pity-party. I’m not trying to get us all to feel sorry for ourselves. The reality of life has been handed to us in one beautifully wrapped, ticking box and now we’ve just got to lump it. What I am going to do, is suggest something that could possibly make this weekend a little better.

Change your tradition.

If what you’ve done in the past is get together with your well-intentioned family and friends to celebrate a family day…skip it. Do what you want to do. And in the future, when someone asks you over to a bar-b-que, you can just say, “You know what? I can’t! It’s so crazy how Memorial Day always falls on Take Your Widowed Ass to the Spa Day and I just can’t make it!”

I realize this gets more complicated when you have children, but that could be even better. When they ask you if you and the kids want to come over for the festivities, you can say, “Oh wow. I already have plans. But I’m sure my kids would love to come over and spend time with you guys! Thanks for offering!”

Just make sure they’re well sun-screened before you drop them off.

I know what I’m suggesting is probably not possible for everyone. I’m just saying…don’t feel so damn obligated to everyone. Take a break. Do the closest thing you can do to getting a day off…everyone else is. Put your creative juices to work. Come up with something that will help you get through the day. Don’t feel like you have to accept all 5 party invitations when all you want to do is dive into a bucket of popcorn in a dark theater somewhere and not talk to one person.

Just make sure you send your buddies a nice thank you note for watching the kids for 12 hours.

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© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. Now if Ben and Jerry want to go to the movies that would be even better! Catherine you are an inspiration to all who know you! I only wish the best for you...if that means a dark theatre, popcorn, and a bottle of vino, go for it!

  2. Nothing should ever be done out of obligation. I totally agree - you should take the time to do what you want and what feeds your soul.

  3. Q: Do your kids ever pressure you to do things that are hard for you in this category of holidays?

  4. My kids are pretty easy-going about it. But they're young. I'm sure that will come. :>)

  5. How timely of you to write this particular posting! I saw for myself how many of us identify with this through the impromptu widowed chat I ran last night on our international "Young Widow and Widowers" group on Facebook. We had a record number of people on, ranging from 10 to as many as 15 at a time, and we were all busy helping one another, cracking jokes, etc, from 9 pm till the wee hours of the morning!

    For those of you not yet members of this group, here is the link:!/group.php?gid=2408112762

  6. My gosh! I shared a similar experience three years ago. My "first" holiday was Labor Day. I remember driving home from work Friday night in a complete funk! I had no plans, no parties; I was all alone...and it simply sucked! Amazingly after wallowing on the sofa for a while on Saturday morning, I snapped myself together to do a little "therapy shopping" at the local Avenue. Don't ya know as I walked along the sidewalk...I heard this faint tiny cry from behind the bushes. There was a tiny baby kitten, smaller than the palm of my hand. That little bit of furry fluff was just what I needed! I'm not sure which one of us needed the other more.

    I named the little guy Jazz, because just before my husband died, he said, "Luce, if I get out of this hospital, life is gonna be Jazzy from now on!" So that's what I named the little guy...Jazzy Boy. And I spent the rest of the holiday weekend taking care of my new little baby kitten. Jazz is now 3 years old and my constant companion. Interesting how pets and people manage to weave their way into your life when you most need them!

  7. Truly LOL!!!! "Take Your Widowed Ass to the Spa Day" Loving this, no I'm good to go! Thank you!