Divorce can be an opportunity to create life anew. I know amazing people who, post divorce, have done this -- and their stories of Christmas creativity and joy demonstrate the inspiring possibilities. But I also know amazing people who, post divorce, are dealing with really awful things. This message is for you: Those divorced parents that would really rather cry then face Christmas. In looking at the social media postings, there are many wonderful stories of inspiration and motivation, but what if you're seriously too overwhelmed and just not in the mood for another: "You can do it!" Christmas message?
Divorce, especially when there are children involved, can be absolutely exhausting and overwhelming. And that's on normal, non-December days. Throw December holidays into the divorced-parenting mix, and it can be that one more thing that you simply can't handle. And I'm not talking about the "woe is me," can't handle. I'm talking can't handle.
The destructiveness of this feeling isn't related to time. That overwhelming feeling is just as brutal, whether it spans a season, or it smacks you as you're maxing out your credit card to purchase the one Christmas gift that you desperately want for your child. And as "declined" appears on the register, the whole weight of divorce and failure crushes you, even when you thought you had it under control.
So what do you do? Before you get your hopes up for a quick fix, I'll get to my point: I don't know. When the stifling weight of divorce had me in its grips, I didn't know how I was going to get school lunches packed, let alone Christmas shopping, outside decorating, cookie-making, present wrapping, Christmas tree decorating and pine-needle vacuuming done. And as you're thinking: "How can I just make it through 'til January?" a part of you hates that you're wishing this time away. This isn't how you envisioned the Christmas of your future.
To all those divorced parents who are feeling this way: I'm sorry, it really can suck.
At one low point in my divorced parenting journey, I remember hearing Princess Fergie, The Duchess of York, relay how she was managing through her divorce. My recollection of what she said may not be in-line with her exact words, but it was the message that I needed at the time. She said that she eventually got out of bed for her kids, because they needed her. Somehow, in hearing my life reflected by a British accent, I felt some comfort.
Reality is hard to ignore, especially when it's twinkling on a Christmas tree. Reality is: Santa Clause is coming, and your child knows it. Reality is: Christmas morning will be here, and as much as you may want to lie in bed and make the whole thing go away, your child will be up. Hearing your child, you'll think: "Well, no one else is here to do it," so you'll get up and walk down the hall. The question is, what's going to be at the end of the hall? Did Santa skip out this year on your child? Or, in some Christmas miracle, did you manage to get up a tree that is now standing above some presents? And when you reach for your child's breakfast, did another miracle of Christmas buns appear?
When life is really, really hard, the blessing of your child becomes apparent. Your child can't do it without you. Somehow, you plod through, moment-by-Christmas-moment, because no one else is there to do it for him or her.
So, in spite of myself, I do have a conclusion to this story. How do you get through Christmas when divorce life sucks? You get through it because your child can't do it alone. You get through it, occasionally lifting the weight long enough to see your child's smile. Your survival and your child smiling are truly Christmas miracles.