I could scarcely hear the words “happy Halloween,” let alone say them a month after my husband’s death. It felt as if plastic front yard gravestones mocked my recent cemetery experiences. Fake coffin lids lifted by glow-in-the-dark skeletal hands called to mind the most heart-wrenching purchases I’d ever made. And with death on my mind as it uprooted my life, I couldn’t muster even an artistic appreciation for well-applied “rotting corpse” or zombie makeups.
These gruesome decorations weren’t to blame for my aversion to the cheery greeting (though they certainly didn’t help).
How could it be a “happy Halloween” without my husband? He’d doted on our kids’ annual costuming, and we’d worn more-or-less matching tacky jack-o-lantern shirts most of our 24 years together.
Facing that first quasi-holiday after he died forced me to realize our annual family traditions would never be the same. In that first year, I wondered whether any such celebrations could ever be “happy” again.
I braced myself against each turn of the calendar. We muddled our way through that first year, altering some traditions, discarding others, and auditioning new activities for tradition-worthiness. Some were outright flops. Others became instant new favorites.
Month by month, my daughters and I found new joys to anticipate.
Along the way to finding those new joys, during that difficult year of “firsts” I appreciated the thoughtful good wishes which acknowledged awareness of our changed circumstances.
Some helpful salutations included:
- “May you be blessed this Thanksgiving. We’re thinking of you.”
- “We hope your Christmas will be filled with fond memories.”
- “May the New Year bring you hope and healing.”
- “I’m guessing this will be a tough Valentine’s Day. Hang in there.”
- “Thinking of you with love this Easter season.”
- “I know you’ll miss your husband this Father’s Day.”
- “Treat yourself with kindness on your birthday.”
- “I’ll be thinking of you on your 25th anniversary” (my first as a widow).
As I worked through the raw pain of that first year’s grief and headed into the next, I became better able to handle more trite salutations like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year.”
(I’m still not fond of “happy Halloween,” though, no matter how cute the trick or treaters.)