Are you in a hard marriage? Are you separated? Are you divorced? Are you a single mom? Are you dreading holiday gatherings? Are you dreading not having plans on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve? Are you dreading not being able to do your years’-long traditions this year, for whatever reasons? Are you dreading watching your kids walk out the door in the middle of Christmas Day? Are you dreading being alone?
Yes, I get it. I have felt all of those things.
Christmastime in a hard marriage is a sad season. You don’t have a partner to share the simple rituals and deep joy with. I get it.
And Christmastime when you’re newly separated or newly divorced or newly a single mom is a sad season. You are adjusting. You are looking around a life that you don’t recognize anymore and wondering how you’re supposed to push through. I get it.
I have some thoughts for you, sweet girls.
Hold on to the traditions that are meaningful to you and let go of the rest. You and your kids can still decorate cookies together or you and your friends can still do your annual Christmas shopping marathon. Not everything has to be left behind, but what doesn’t bring you joy sure can be.
Make new traditions. Tell your kids (or just tell yourself) that this Christmas is a clean slate. Ask them (or yourself) what one tradition you’d all like to start this year, and then do it.
Make plans on days your children are going to be gone. Reach out. Do not stay isolated. If you don’t make a plan, the day will sneak up on you and you’ll be on your couch, crying, watching Netflix (not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s really what you need to do). But if what you really want to do is to be with people, ask a close friend if you can be with her and her family for the day (I did that over my first separated Thanksgiving when my kids were gone and it was the sweetest thing and just what my heart needed).
If you have to go to a holiday gathering on your own, keep these tips in mind (most of which I gleaned from my time at AlAnon):
1) treat everyone at your extended family gathering like an interesting stranger; ask them good questions; be engaged.
2) pray that God will help you be yourself; it can be hard not to want to put on a mask, but try just being you and see what happens.
3) pray that God will help you remember he is standing by your side with his arm around you; you’re not really there alone.
4) you’re a grown-up…you can leave whenever you need to. Even if you don’t, it’s a totally freeing thought to know you can just up and go if you’re feeling super uncomfortable.
Finally, carve out some time to remind yourself what this holiday is actually about. Though it’s in part about the traditions and time with family, et cetera, et cetera, it is truly about Jesus coming for us. All the rest is just details and fluff. Spend time thanking God for coming for you, for loving you, and for never leaving you.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. –Isaiah 9:6
Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotions to Help You Heal is a gentle companion that will walk you through this season.