Oh, the holidays…a time for joy and cheer…unless your slightly cynical like me and think the holidays are a completely overrated, stress inducing, materialistic way to teach ungrateful children excess and greed invented by corporate America. Bah Humbug!
I’m just kidding…even I’m not that cynical. Well, maybe a little bit. Sure, I love the twinkling lights, the spirit of giving and getting together with family and friends on the holidays, but this year the thought of stringing up Christmas lights makes me want to become a Jehovah Witness. When my kids were little, I loved decorating the house, listening to Christmas music chopping down a Christmas tree and snuggling up with a cup of hot coco by the fire place. Now, the kids are grown and even though I try to keep our family traditions going it just doesn’t feel the same.
After a divorce, the holidays can become a painful reminder that nothing will ever be the same. Especially the first year you are celebrating as a single parent. It can seem overwhelming and at times down right depressing. What was once a joyful family tradition is a somber reminder that the family is broken. We try our best to put on a happy face and reassure our children that things may be different but we are still a family.
I remember the first Christmas after my divorce, I took the kids to our local tree farm, just like we had always done and my son, who was 15 years old at the time, helped me cut down the tree. I remember feeling glad that my ex wasn’t there. He was always so miserable about doing it and he sucked the joy out of things we did as a family. He was always rushing to finish instead of enjoying that precious time with his children. I remember feeling so much happier and felt a sense of accomplishment when I did it all without him. I remember wondering if he even missed all these traditions that had to drag him into. I knew that he had a difficult childhood and felt compassion, that for him, perhaps the holidays reminded him of painful memories. Knowing this, I always wanted to make him feel included during the holidays and wanted us to still do things as a family. I even invited him over every Christmas morning to unwrap the presents and have brunch together to make it less difficult for the kids and for him.
This year will be different. This year he is returning home on Christmas day from being deployed overseas for almost a year. This year he has a new wife. This year, my sister is hosting dinner and my kids and I are leaving the day after Christmas to drive my daughter to California to her new home. This year we will forgo chopping down the Christmas tree and instead map out our cross country adventure as I fight back tears of her leaving. I know I should invite my ex and his wife over for Christmas brunch, but I don’t know if I have it in me to invite her into our home, nor do I think she would want to. This year will be the last year in our home and everything will be different again. This year will be the hardest year yet.
So much changes after divorce. Some for the good and some for the bad. We know that we are happier without being in a toxic relationship, but we will always lament the memories of past Christmas’ when we were all together as a family. That is the hardest pill to swallow.
My advice is to create new traditions and memories. Let go of the past because it doesn’t serve you anymore. Yes, you have to feel the pain, but you don’t have to stay there letting the ghost of Christmas past haunt you. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and visual what you want your future to look like. Write it down and be very specific. You will find joy again. You will create new memories with someone who brings you that joy and happiness. You won’t be here forever; this is just a temporary road block until you get on the right path again. Everything that happens from this point on is a lesson we have to learn in order to avoid making the same mistakes again. Get to know who you are and define your deepest desires so that you will attract that to your life. Set your intentions and live by this quote:
Two of the most powerful words.
For what you put after them shapes your reality.”
Merry Merry Christmas to all of you. I hope and pray that we all find joy and happiness this holiday season and we continue to heal in the new year.