Ask anyone who is divorced and he or she will tell you that the pain it causes can sometimes feel unbearable. Then add in the holidays—especially that first Christmas or Hanukkah and New Years after a separation. Trying to celebrate the holidays during divorce is stressful, sad, confusing and sometimes bittersweet. It is during this time that the pain of divorce is intensified, both for the couple and the kids.
The holidays can feel so depressing for the newly separated, and even for those who have been divorced for awhile. It starts with receiving holiday cards with other people’s family photos, or how about going to holiday parties without a spouse? Or, experiencing broken traditions. This woman expressed pain she was experiencing while putting up Christmas decorations with her kids:
Putting out Christmas decorations was horrible I tried to get kids to help, but they just want to get rid of things that remind them of their dad, which is everything. This just makes me sad and angry because I’m trying so hard to do everything, be everything for them and they can’t see that those are my memories too, and they want to get rid of them. Did not expect the holidays to be this hard. Not having family nearby is especially tough.
I feel for this woman and for her kids. She sounds like a great mom, trying to keep things “normal” and festive for her children. But, they are in so much pain that they can’t focus on Christmas, only the fact that their parents are getting divorced.
What I would tell this woman to do is to sit and talk with her children, honestly and openly. I don’t know their ages, but no matter how young they are she needs to be upfront and explain that she is hurting also and that the holiday season won’t be the same this year or ever again.
Then she should talk to them about what Christmas and the New Year really mean. It could mean gratitude for life and family, or the beauty of giving, or the chance for a new beginning (For New Years.) Whatever the holiday means to them, she should bring that out and help them to realize what they still have: health, family, and most importantly, love.
I realize that it is very hard for kids to appreciate the basics, and most tend to focus on the immediate problem at hand—in this case, the divorce. That’s why their mom might benefit from putting things in perspective.
It isn’t easy. Trust me. I experienced my own holiday divorce blues this past week, and I have been divorced for 10 years!! Here’s what happened.
One day last week, I got my mail and there happened to be a bunch of holiday cards. Traditionally, I get a lot of joy out of sitting and opening all the cards and seeing the photos of my dear friends and their families. But for some reason, this year, after I opened all of them, I felt really, really sad and actually cried a little bit.
Make no mistake, I was overjoyed to see all of their faces and how their beautiful children have grown, but I found myself grieving the fact that I will never have this traditional family. Ever again. No matter what.
I am currently in a wonderful, loving relationship—the best I’ve ever had in my life, and my children are my greatest joy in life. So, everything is definitely in perspective. But after a decade, I am still mourning the loss of a traditional family, and I’m not sure that will ever go away.
In the end, I think it’s very important to do one thing in life, both during the holidays and all year long: BE HAPPY. Just be happy. Do things to make yourself happy. Spent time with people who make you happy. Go after things you know will make you happy.
To all those who are newly separated or divorced: Big hugs and kisses and all the best for a wonderful holiday season. I promise you will get through this holiday and that next year will be easier. Try to be in the moment as much as you can, because the pain you are feeling is lined with three things: faith, love, and hope. And aren’t those the very things that define the holidays?
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.