Beware of “Happy Halloween” and Other Hazardous Good Wishes

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).

Take your grieving friends some favorite candy (or a healthier treat) to show you're thinking of them, but consider skipping the "Happy Halloween" greeting.

Take your grieving friends some favorite candy (or a healthier treat) to show you’re thinking of them, but consider skipping the “happy Halloween” greeting.

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.)

8 thoughts on “Beware of “Happy Halloween” and Other Hazardous Good Wishes

  1. Couples holding hands, especially older couples–that was the trigger point after my husband died almost five years ago. It still is. I want to smack them. I’m sorry I do, but I just do. I’m sorry about your loss, especially at such a young age.

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    • Thank you! I can relate to what a trigger that is. I still have to consciously tell myself to be happy for couples around me. Sadly, one of them will someday understand the loss of widowhood, too.

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  2. You will be in my thoughts and prayer as you grieve. As a single person I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a spouse…. What a wonderful idea, blogging as a method to help you cope. Wishing you nothing but healing.

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    • Victoria, thank you. Prayers and positive thoughts are always appreciated!

      When my grief was still raw and life seemed all grey, I shared my thoughts and feelings on closed, “widowed only” support sites. Now in my third year as a widow, time and experience have “seasoned” it. Life has color and beauty and hope again. I want this blog to help others on their way to rediscovering that for themselves–with the help of their friends.

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      • What is pain for if not reaching out to others? That is so great, it will hopefully benefit you as much as other people 🙂 I have found that reaching out to others usually helps me feel better and put my small grievances in persepctive…. I imagine it also helps us deal with larger, truer losses.

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      • Yes, it does help. 🙂

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  3. […] Beware of “Happy Halloween” and Other Hazardous Good Wishes […]

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