The holidays are fast approaching.  And for me and a lot of widows, it’s a difficult time.  The holidays are supposed to be festive, joyous, happy times.  But when your person is dead, they feel anything but festive. 


For widows, the holidays can be sad, lonely times. We might accept invitations and then change our minds because the thought of going alone is too much.  We might be happy one moment and crying the next as a memory fills our heart. We may want to run away instead of celebrate. We may cling to old traditions or start completely new ones.  We have to do what we need to do to survive. And hopefully, one day, the holidays will be a festive time again. 


Jared died in September so those first holidays hit me and my son full force.  They were not easy. Somehow we got through them. But they were definitely rough. 


We had planned a family trip to Costa Rica for Thanksgiving before Jared died.  Since Jared had only been gone 2 months, I wasn’t sure I could go. But being home was harder.  So we went. And believe it or not, we had a good time. Albeit with a lot of tears. And a lot of heartache missing Jared. But going and making new memories showed us we could live while loving and missing Jared. 


Christmas has always been a huge event with tons of traditions.  That first Christmas is a blur. I know we honored our traditions but it wasn’t the same without Jared.  A piece of our family was missing. And the joy and peace I usually felt at Christmas just wasn’t there. I honestly don’t remember much.  But I do remember that we started a new tradition. My son and I wrote letters to Jared on Christmas Eve and put them in his stocking. We wanted to fill his stocking with love.  We continue this new tradition five years later.  


New Year’s, surprisingly, was the hardest holiday of all.  I didn’t expect New Year’s to knock me on my ass. But it did. No one special to kiss at midnight. No one with whom I could make plans for the upcoming year.  Knowing it would be a year that didn’t know Jared. And that after September I would no longer be able to say last year in reference to Jared. New Years hurt my heart.  No amount of champagne could ease the pain of missing my husband. 


The first few holiday seasons without Jared, I had to force myself to participate. To smile.  To try and enjoy the moments. Because all I wanted to do was cry. But my son deserved to enjoy the holidays so I did my best.  The second Thanksgiving, my girlfriend made a special place setting to honor Jared and let us know he would always have a spot at her table.  It moved me to tears and touched my heart beyond words. The third year, I found myself truly smiling and laughing. Enjoying the festivities of the holiday season.  Steven and I traveled for New Year’s and rang in the New Year just the two of us. As we looked towards the heavens, we smiled. Real smiles of joy. . 


And now five years later, the holidays are festive, joyous, happy again.  Do I still miss Jared? Absolutely. His name is frequently mentioned during the holiday season.  Memories of him constantly shared. Every Christmas since his death, I buy my son a present from heaven.  Something his dad would have given him. And I wrap it in angel paper. He usually saves that gift for last.  His gift from his dad is a special one to him. I also buy myself a gift from Jared. Something to help me feel like he is still participating in the day. And Steven can’t wait to see what his dad sent me.  It’s become a way to honor Jared and make him part of the celebration. 


Thanksgiving has traditionally been a time of travel for us.  And it still is. This year we are traveling to see my new husband’s family and spend the holiday with them. Honoring old traditions and starting new ones. 


New Year’s is still a rough time but now it is also a celebration.  My new husband and I were married on New Year’s Eve so now we throw a party to ring in the New Year.  After I kiss my new husband, I look to the heavens and say Happy New Year to Jared. And I feel him smile that I am happy.  Living. Loving.  


The holidays will never be the same without Jared.  His absence will always be felt. He will always be missed.  But we do our best to keep

him close and his memory alive by sharing our stories of him.  While the holidays will never be the same, that doesn’t mean they can’t be good again. 


My advice to widows this holiday season, give yourself a break. Do what makes you happy.  Decline invitations that feel like a chore. Continue traditions that warm your heart and let the rest go.  Start new traditions. Make new memories. Cry when you need to. And laugh when you feel like it. Just know you will get through it. And one day you’ll actually enjoy the holidays again. 


Carla always knew she would be a widow but didn’t have any idea how it would actually feel. When Carla met her late husband Jared, he was waiting for a lung transplant due to Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic disease affecting the lungs and pancreas. So she knew that most likely someday she would say goodbye to her husband. But she never dreamt it would be exactly one week before their 14th wedding anniversary. In August 2014, Jared was diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection in his transplanted lung and was expected to survive at least 6 months if not a year. Instead, he died just 6 weeks later. And in the blink of an eye, Carla became a solo mom to their 10-year-old son. And even though her life was forever marked before and after, she was determined to live life to the fullest because her husband would expect no less.

She founded Breathing for Jared, a Foundation to provide college scholarships to those suffering from lung disease in honor of her late husband. Became a supporter of the CF Foundation and Donate Life. And discovered that writing out her emotions and fears on her blog Transplant Wife and Widow helped her to process her grief

Carla recently remarried and is now blending a family with her new husband, bonus daughter, and son.