Holidays are coming… Surviving the summer as a widow or widower
Sunny skies, warm evenings, BBQ’s, holidays, fish ‘n’ chips on the beach, lighter nights, day trips and ice cream – all things which were once relished and enjoyed as a couple, or conventional family, can be incredibly challenging as a widow or widower. It is at times a painful reminder of those lost future plans and happy memories…
If you are solo parenting after a loss, the idea of surviving 6 or 8 weeks of school holidays with grieving children can be incredibly daunting (and expensive!). If you don’t have children, then it can be an incredibly lonely time, sat in the garden hearing your neighbours enjoying a simple barbecue nearly broke me last year.
So I thought it could be helpful to share a few thoughts and tips to help you survive and make the best of the summer…
I find it really helpful to plan ahead and have a fun activity to work towards and aim for. This could be a holiday. Whether it’s a weekend away camping or a 5-star all-inclusive resort, a change really is as good as a rest. New surroundings and experiences can help with a little escapism from day to day living and the challenges of grief.
Team Up with Other Widows or Widowers
Holidaying alone or with your kids can be at times very lonely, I’ve sat on a cruise ship or in a hotel with tears behind my sunglasses watching all those perfect happy families with two parents. Mealtimes particularly can be very lonely and (let’s be honest) children don’t always provide the best dinner conversations – unless you want to talk about Lego or superheroes!
Utilise charities and support groups like Widowed and Young and Way Up or other Facebook groups to meet widows who may be interested in a group holiday. Theses group holidays can work well creating new friendships with company of people who understand. And if you have children, they could make some fabulous new friendships with fellow kids who get what they are going through.
WAY has a great ‘WAY on Holiday’ Facebook group where people share their planned trips and dates and invite others to join. I had a great escape with a fellow WAYer to Bali and Singapore at Christmas and created some amazing new memories for us and our kids at what would’ve been a very difficult time.
Think about the style of holiday you book
I strongly recommend you use this opportunity to think differently, it could be really painful to revisit previous holiday destinations you enjoyed with your late partner. My husband hated Disneyland so my first solo trip with my son was to Orlando – you really can’t be sad in the world of Mickey Mouse. It was a great distraction to ride real rollercoasters rather than emotional ones.
Another good option for solo parenting – I highly recommend considering a cruise. They have amazing kids club facilities so as a parent you can recharge your batteries in the spa or on top deck in the sunshine with a good book. The dining and entertainment is incredible. Some of the larger ships have 20 plus bars and restaurants, a rollercoaster, a carousel, a Go Kart track, Laser tag and even Dodgem cars – I warn you there is a very great possibility you will hardly see your kids all week!
They often offer all-inclusive packages and highly reduced prices for children which makes it more affordable than you think. I think of them as like a floating hotel visiting a new city almost every day and I’ve always found the sound of the sea and occasional sighting of dolphins incredibly therapeutic. They have a packed daily programme of activities including daily solo traveller meet ups which I always go to and have made some fabulous new friends.
We’d love to hear your ideas for ideal holidays or destinations for widows and widowers with or without children, and even hear your stories of group holidays you’ve enjoyed!
If a holiday isn’t feasible or practical due to budgetary constraints or holiday leave allowance at work, then plan fun activities in your weekends or days off. They don’t need to be expensive! There are some incredible free galleries and museums for rainy days, and if the sun is shining you can head to beach or a park for a picnic or treasure hunt. There are lots of Facebook local ‘days out for kids’ groups offering suggestions.
Also consider joining the National Trust, they have some incredible parks and properties across the UK, most have a great playground and a café serving delicious and reasonably priced food with great kids lunch boxes and I can highly recommend the cream teas!
Lots of cafes and restaurants are offering ‘kids go free’ meals this summer – here is a link to a few options.
There are hundreds of widow peer support groups. Find your tribe and lean into those communities. We all understand the challenges, frustrations and loneliness and we can all help each other.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to give you some respite or company this summer. Often people live busy lives and don’t think to offer but genuinely want to help if asked. Perhaps set up a WhatsApp group and say that the summer holidays are looming, and you are worried about coping / feeling lonely and can anyone possibly help with either childcare or planning some fun activities throughout the summer.
So, let’s hope the sun shines for us all at some point this summer and don’t forget the sunscreen!!
We’d love to hear about your plans this summer. You can email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll incorporate these into our newsletter.
Nicky Wake, Founder, Chapter 2