My husband lost his courageous, nearly yearlong fight against stage IV pancreatic cancer in September 2013, leaving behind three beautiful children, ages 7 to 13. In less than four months after his passing, each one of us celebrated a birthday, I acknowledged a wedding anniversary and we all marked two major holidays.

My husband lost his courageous, nearly yearlong fight against stage IV pancreatic cancer in September 2013, leaving behind three beautiful children, ages 7 to 13. In less than four months after his passing, each one of us celebrated a birthday, I acknowledged a wedding anniversary and we all marked two major holidays.

For the sake of my children, and in honoring my husband, I made a conscious decision to make the holidays more than "just something to get through." However, if canceling the holidays this season best suits you and your family as you grieve the loss of a loved one, that's OK, too. Grief journeys are as unique as the individuals grieving. Choosing to have a quiet holiday at home with your immediate family this year doesn't mean you won't be ready to join the crowds for the annual gatherings next season.

Let others know what you need. Friends and family desperately want to be there for you but may not know how to help. Taking time to let those around you know what you need allows them to feel helpful and for you to receive the support that's most beneficial at the time. It may be as simple as asking a friend to join you in putting up decorations, wrapping gifts or baking the cookies your children said they can't live without. Don't hesitate to ask someone to take the kids for a day so you can simply rest, too.

Do not set expectations. Unfortunately it's natural to set great expectations for what the holidays will be, only to be disappointed when they don't quite reach perfection. After the loss of a loved one, planning your holidays without expectations is wise. You may find more joy and laughter than you expected. Or maybe the holiday season is more difficult for you or your children than you anticipated and it's necessary to alter plans and events. That's OK. Flexibility will be the new theme in your days.

Seek input from your children. Children grieve differently than adults. It is imperative to ask how they would like to spend a particular holiday or special occasion. The family should discuss together what, if anything, they would like to change about the day. Children need to know and feel they are an important entity in the family unit. They need their thoughts and feelings validated by those around them.

Enjoy traditions, old and new. There is great comfort for children and adults alike in keeping with tradition. Your family might prefer the same activities, foods and gatherings as in the past because so much has already changed in your lives. You may opt for a change of venue for the holiday meal or invite others along on special outings to help fill the void. If you had always talked about doing something different in the past, now might be a great time to implement the change.

Honor your loved one. There are several ways you may choose to honor your loved one. Lighting a special candle next to your loved one's picture can acknowledge they remain with you. Making or purchasing a special ornament in memory of your loved one has been a favorite of many. Attending a memorial service is another way to remember your loved one. A donation to his or her favorite charity is yet another way to pay tribute.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Life can be turned upside down after the loss of a loved one. You may be more exhausted than energized. The seven types of cookies and candies you prepared every year are no longer realistic. Putting up five of the 20 boxes of decorations will suffice. There is room to simplify in every aspect of our lives.

Utilize available resources. A variety of resources, both local and online, are available to assist adults, children and families in grief:

*Help for grieving children: cornerstoneofhope.org; in Columbus, 614-824-4285

*Help for grieving children: childrengrieve.org with locations throughout the country.

*Families grieving loss of a child: compassionatefriends.org.

*Hope for the holidays workshop and general support: hospiceofcentralohio.org; in Newark, 740-788-1474; in Columbus, 614-891-6000

*Spiritually based bereavement outreach: griefsteps.org.

If you do what you feel is best for you and your children, the holidays, though sometimes difficult, will have more meaning to you and your family. In time, your grief will be balanced with newfound joy you share with one another.

-Karen L. Zickes is the mother of three amazingly brave children and a freelance writer in Ohio.