Four Tips in Grieving the Holidays | Karen Millsap | Widows at Work

The holidays are a tough time for all of us who are grieving; but what do you think of this statement “If you are always looking for bad, you will always find it”?

Why do I bring this up? This year, my 3rd holiday season as a widow, and this year I decided I am going to do 2 things. Be consciously grateful and express thanks.

I believe, what you focus on will determine how you feel.

I noticed that if I focus on what I miss, and if I am angry about not sharing this amazing time of year with my husband, then I start to feel physically sick. I cry. I get headaches. I feel terrible! But if I enjoy my nieces and nephews, and the food, and the jokes, and the movies, etc…. then I feel at peace.

There is something about the energy you GET from giving; it’s undeniable and instantaneous. Being a widow is hard, sure; but nobody’s life is perfect, everyone has hardships. And there are other people in less fortunate situations, so it’s important to be grateful and be generous with kindness.

We all have “key players” in our grief journey –people who have NOT deserted us, they are a phone call away, or they are helpful with the kids, or they just help us feel normal….

I decided to write letters to those key players to express my gratitude. You see, when we are in this fog, we sometimes don’t look up to acknowledge the people who are still here with us.

It can be friends, family, it can even be your KIDS! It doesn’t have to be a long letter, mine were a couple of sentences of specific thanks.

Thanks for making sure I didn’t go crazy.
Thanks for always doing your chores and helping out.
Thanks for understanding I can be a jerk sometimes and still loving me.

Widows at Work | Grief Counseling | Orlando

Here are 4 practical tips to manage your grief over the holidays:

1.      Don’t over commit, and make sure you skip any party that you know is going to stress you out. Only do what you can because it’s really important you manage your energy.

2.      Build in down time, or recovery time. If you are not over committing this should be easy! We spend a lot of energy suppressing grief to make others feel comfortable, but that will take a toll on you physically. So just be aware of the need to relax or lay down.

3.      Do a few things well – I know there are traditions we want to continue, but don’t put added pressure on yourself to make EVERYTHING perfect. Be realistic and give yourself grace to just do a few things well.

4.      Find a friend – have a “go to” friend or family member and give them a heads up, “I may just need to crash or break down if at any point this gets too heavy.” By being vulnerable and transparent you will have someone in your corner to support you; and that’s what’s needed most.


karen millsapAfter becoming a widow at 29, founder Karen Millsap recognized the lack of support after this devastating loss. It prompted her desire to help other men and women who also face this major life alteration. For more information about her organization Widows at Work, visit