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Wealth & Well-Being

How the Holidays Can Leave Widows Feeling Less Than "Holly Jolly" About Their Finances

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The holidays are officially here, which can be both a blessing and an added pressure for recent widows. While it’s a wonderful time of year to enjoy with family and friends, there’s an ever-present reminder that things will look a little different this year and you may feel anything but festive.

Additionally, most women face more stress around the holidays then men, between gift buying, cooking large meals, making plans, etc. In fact, around 38% of women feel stressed about how much they spend during the holiday season. If you’ve recently experienced the loss of a spouse, here are a few challenges we recognize you may be facing this holiday season and tips for overcoming them.


A season meant to be spent surrounded by loved ones can be especially hard for those who’ve recently lost a spouse.  If you’re used to having kids, grandkids, and loved ones over all season long, consider how you can still get your family together without overexerting yourself. Maybe someone else will host Thanksgiving, while you have a small group over for Christmas.  

New traditions can be simple things you decide to do on your own or more elaborate rituals that you create with your family. As you think about them, remember that traditions are meant to be repeated year after year—so choose something that your family can realistically keep going. Even better, create traditions that can be handed down to future generations. Some of these traditions can even include ways to honor your loved one’s memory. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Gift Your Loved One’s Belongings: After a loss, it can be hard to part with your loved one’s belongings. But wrapping some of their things up with a special note and sharing them with others presents the perfect opportunity to part with some of their things while also making sure their treasures go somewhere they are valued. 
  • Set a Place for Your Lost Loved One: Add an extra plate to your dinner table to symbolize your loved one’s presence in everyone’s hearts and minds.
  • Remembrance Ornaments: If you celebrate the holidays with a tree, buy a new ornament every year that remind you of your loved one. 
  • Memory Tablecloth: Every year, lay out a special tablecloth and fabric markers. Ask guests to write down their favorite holiday memories, especially those that involve your late spouse. 

Creating traditions with your family that honor your spouse can offer peace and comfort. Find what feels right for you and give yourself space to rest and take care of yourself.


You may feel the pressure to give in the same way as you have in the past. This may not make sense personally or financially depending on your energy level and resources.   Fully understanding your financial picture and how disposable income has changed will help direct what is possible moving forward.  

Say you’ve traditionally enjoyed gifting money or presents to grandchildren and or nieces and nephews. Consider getting creative in how you gift to them this holiday season. Maybe your gift could be a trip to see Christmas lights and meet Santa, or a sleigh ride at the local farm.

Asking yourself if you enjoy the same type of giving that you have done in the past or if you would like to do things differently.  Maybe instead of money and presents, a family trip away from your normal routine would be a welcome change.  

Ultimately, thinking about what will leave a lasting impression on your loved ones without creating more personal or financial stress is the goal. 


If you and your spouse had a recurring giving strategy, are you still prepared to give in the same way this season? Or do you need to adjust to accommodate for your new financial picture? 

This is something you and your financial advisor should consider together since the holidays are a popular time to give generously to charitable organizations.

You may still have the desire to give, but perhaps the amounts have changed, or you would like to give to different charities.  Part of the adjustment process is finding ways to make your gifts of time and or money meaningful.  

Pausing on larger donations until you fully understand your financial situation often makes sense.  While you are in this transition stage, perhaps you can still donate a small amount while also donating a few hours of your time to volunteer, collect donations, or advocate for your favorite organization. This allows you to still give during the holiday season, while keeping your charitable giving strategy well-aligned with your evolving financial needs.


New Years is all about new beginnings and fresh goals. It’s likely your resolutions are going to look different for 2023 than they have in the past. Remember that this is a new stage in life that will take time to adjust to. Try to let go of any pressures to compare yourself to others (or even to your own past accomplishments). Be gracious and kind with yourself.

One of the most effective ways to set and keep financial goals for the new year is to work closely with your financial advisor. They can help you establish a path moving forward based on new goals and challenges.


One of the most critical pieces of advice we can give you this holiday season is this: Perfection is an illusion. You’ll see plenty of “perfect families” in movies and advertisements during the holidays, which can be especially difficult to endure as a newly widowed woman.

Remember that our team at Northstar Financial Planning is here for you all year round, and we understand the added stress the holidays can have on you. Please feel free to call us anytime, we’re here to help you feel personally and financially confident as the new year approaches.

Written by Robin Young in collaboration with Lexicon Content Development

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