It’s that time of year again when we have several major holidays for the widowed, single parent, and divorced families to deal with, cope with, and get through graciously. I never really thought of the holidays as being a painful experience; that is not until I was first separated heading into divorce. I guess that I am the first one in my immediate family to experience divorce and by the time it was finished I was the only one left alive. My siblings and parents are all now deceased. Fortunately they never had to experience the painful holidays. Well, that isn’t entirely true. When my brother died on December 13th in 1975 we as a family were never the same again. My parents disliked the holidays for a very long time and I can certainly understand their pain. I shared it as well but as I got married and had children and moved on in life I became excited about my family holiday time. My sister did too and as she reared her family and I raised mine the grandchildren made holidays bearable for my parents. I don’t believe that my Mom ever put up a Christmas tree after my brother died; either my sister or I did that for her if she had one at all. In my Mom and Dad’s last years they enjoyed going to one of their daughters homes for Christmas and we enjoyed them as well.
I guess if I am extremely honest with myself the reason I dislike the end of the year holidays so much is that most of the time most of my children are not coming to celebrate with me and I am not able to go to their homes to celebrate with them. I am tied to a school calendar since I still have a twelve-year-old at home. Secondly I miss my family, my parents, and my sister, and brother, and their spouses. I miss the fun times we had catching up on each others lives during those family holiday times. I miss tasting other people’s cooking and asking for their recipe. I miss buying presents for them and the happiness my present brought them. I miss the beautiful table that we set each Christmas with the silver platters and bowls as well as the china and crystal services. I miss the anticipation that everyone would be there and would find their stocking on Christmas morning filled to the brim with the little things that say “Mom loves you!” But death came knocking and my parents and sister and brother had no choice but to answer that call. Divorce crashed in on me and now he has a new love and wants some of his children to fill the need that only your children can fill during the holidays in his own life. I think all of this is why I dislike the end of the year holidays. Nothing is the same anymore. Grief is what I feel, and what I fight, and what I want to end.
Grief can creep up on a person in the most unexpected ways and at the most inopportune times. For those who are widowed the holidays can also be very difficult. The one person that you shared your life with is now gone from sight and there is no other time that is worse than at the holiday times. Television has a plethora of happy movies with happy endings but your life has no happy ending, just grief. Your children and friends try their very best to fill the void that you feel and you try your best to smile and be appreciative, but in the end, you still feel the deep grief of losing your loved one. Our world loves couples but has little room for widows and widowers, or so my widowed friends tell me. I think that the world has even less appreciation for the divorced single person. After all, there is always doubt as to the real cause of your divorce, and who knows but your divorce might be contagious and other married couples sure don’t want to end up divorced, so best to leave that divorced person off the guest list. Or so it seems to me and to my friends who are divorced. So how do we get through these pending holidays graciously?
I don’t know about you but my budget simply doesn’t allow me the money that I used to have to spend on holiday entertaining. I do, however, try to help whomever I can if I see a need. There is something about doing good deeds for others that helps me make it through the holidays. I don’t do as some I know who crawl into a shell of depression and don’t emerge until after the New Year. I also don’t crawl into a liquor bottle to forget the pain either. I do try to analyze why it seems nearly every year since the divorce those who can come to my home during the holidays seem to choose the same time period, usually Christmas Eve. Our family traditions for Christmas Eve have not changed in more than sixty years. We eat junk food and read the Christmas Story from the Bible and open our Christmas presents to one another one at a time taking turns so that every person feels included. It is a lengthy process but one that my children seem to greatly enjoy. Some years we also go to church together on Christmas Eve before we start our traditional junk food, story, and presents. If we don’t go to church we sometimes watch a movie together. Two old favorites is some version of A Christmas Carol or White Christmas. Then on Christmas morning we have a large English traditional breakfast with sausages, boiled eggs, scones, toast and jams and special breads as well as coffee and tea. This has become my new tradition since the divorce. What I long for is to have the family Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day, what I get is something different because of schedules and the in-law’s family needs and the ex-family needs. Don’t misunderstand me, though, I am thankful for the time I am allowed with my adult children because I know that they are busy and travel a long way to be with me if they are able to come at all.
I am hopeful that this year on Christmas morning to have only one family missing from the traditional Christmas Breakfast. This is a rare treat and I am really looking forward to having this time with my children and their families. If all works well I will also have half of my children with me for a big Christmas meal! Truthfully it has been so long since I cooked one that I am having difficulty in deciding what to serve. Maybe this year won’t be so depressing! I surely do hope so. So here is how I plan to survive the coming holidays and I hope my tips will help you as well.
- Count your blessings and give thanks for all the good in your life because there really is a lot of good if we just take the time to look for it.
- Praise God regardless of who is able to come, whether the weather changes plans, or if the in-laws and ex-laws demand time with the children, after all you have your children’s love and that is what really matters.
- Pray for relief when that old grief rolls in like a London fog on your heart because God will hear your prayer and will answer as well.
- Focus on what really matters, which is the love you have for your family because love covers a multitude of sins (Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8) especially during the holidays.
- Don’t forget others that are outside your family and remember to do something nice for them, make some cookies and candy and take to them or send a card or give a meal to a family that has lost their income for whatever reason.
- Sing along with the radio, singing lifts our spirits and there is nothing more fun than to sing Christmas carols along with the radio.
- Don’t over spend on your money or your time or your energy, make sure that you take good care of your health so that you can enjoy the time you do have with family.
- Do your best to forget the past where grief lies and move forward to a new appreciation of your family and your circumstances. Hey, I appreciate that I don’t have to smell Top Ramen Noodles every morning as that is what my ex ate for breakfast each day!
- Appreciate the little joys as well as the big ones and don’t neglect the ones who are around you daily, for me that is my son.
- If you blow it just realize that at the end of next year there will be another chance to get it right and you have eleven months to work on having a better attitude!
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6, (New International Version).
So there it is; my thoughts on how to survive the coming holidays. Remember that God will never leave you, Jesus will never leave you and the Holy Spirit will never leave you. As to the rest of your family just remember: What can mere mortals do to me? I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me to prepare for the holidays.