12247171_10207832089622462_4462477428849206679_nAre 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 for Thanksgiving or 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.

The holidays 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 the holidays 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.

And this holiday season, some of us may still be struggling in lingering ways, maybe not being able to go out and do what we’d normally do, maybe not being able to see who we’d normally see.

I have some thoughts for you, sweet girls.

Hold on to the traditions that are meaningful to you and try to 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 online shopping marathon. Not everything has to be left behind, but what doesn’t bring you joy sure can be. (If you don’t love to do it and you don’t have to do it, don’t do it.)

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 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 is connection, tell a friend ahead of time and plan to FaceTime or meet for a socially-distanced walk or hot chocolate while sitting in your own cars in a Starbucks parking lot.

For those of you still attending holiday gathering this year and if you have to go 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.

5) 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 available in THREE FORMATS this season:
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-$5 25-day e-devotional sent to your email every morning in December:

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