Holidays After Divorce: A Story of Hope

Today’s blog is going to take on a different feel. I usually blog with tips and tricks to help navigate the divorce process. Today I’m going to get personal and write about my own story of healing and hope. There are no specific steps or action items to check off to get from point A to point B in this story, but I hope that the journey I describe inspires you to hang on tight to the hope that things will get easier.

We all have our favorite holidays and traditions. It is ok if your favorite holiday is totally different than the next person. This story can apply to your personal favorite time of year and the hurt caused by the divorce that you now face during that time. For me, my favorite holiday has always been Christmas. As a little girl, I used to start listening to Christmas music in July and could not wait until it was time to decorate the house. Nothing felt more magical than sitting in a dark room with just the lights of the Christmas tree glowing. I loved everything about this time of year and often dreamed about how I would decorate my own house and what traditions I would make with my children some day.

When I was married, I tried to make the perfect Christmas for my family. I wanted everything to be just right- picture perfect even. Looking back, I now realize that is all it was. Picture perfect on the outside, but the actual reality was not at all what I envisioned as a little girl. In my dream, my husband helped decorate the tree and loved the traditions as much as I did. He was excited to experience the magic of the season with our children and was like a kid himself on Christmas morning watching them tear open their gifts.

That was my dream, not my reality. No matter how much I tried to make things perfect, the missing link was having someone who wanted to share this with me. When I realized I could not will him to participate or be involved with our family, even during this time of year, my first spark of Christmas died.

The first Christmas after the divorce, I really tried to reignite that spark. I was ready to dive into new traditions and make happy memories. With each attempt, I lost a little bit more of the spark. Christmas activities took on a stressful quality rather than being fun experiences. I saw other families with both a mom and a dad at holiday events and couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. I began to feel overwhelmingly sad at the thought of doing even simple holiday traditions alone- just me and the kids. It was my reminder that I was still holding Christmas to the standard of my dream, yet my reality kept creeping further and further from that image.

The following three Christmas seasons continued in the same manner. Each year I felt less and less of my Christmas spark. I was going through the motions to try to salvage some semblance of tradition and happy Christmas memories for the boys. Most of the time the event or activity ended in frustration and tears all around. I was having my own pity party because it did not feel right to me and they were feeding off of my frustration, anger, and sadness. Each year I chose to put out fewer and fewer decorations because- what’s the point? I found myself changing the station when Christmas music came on the radio. Things like buying and wrapping gifts, making cookies, and visiting Santa became things that I dreaded and I just wanted to get them over with. Last year, I didn’t even want to put up the tree. Instead of being that beautiful symbol I remember, it became one more chore I had to do.

I then hit my Christmas equivalent of rock bottom. I clearly recall talking to my sister on the phone just days before Christmas. I was in a Grinch like mood and said that the decorations were making the walls of my house feel like they were closing in on me. And then I said it….”I can’t wait for Christmas to be over so that I can put all of this crap away and go back to normal”! Never in all my years would have imagined these to be my feelings about Christmas. The time of year that I used to love and that brought so much joy. It was gone and I thought I would never get it back.

I’m sure by now you are thinking…where is this going? This sounds like the opposite of hope! But alas, we have reached the turning point! As the seasons changed this year, I was caught off guard by my desire to start playing Christmas music again. The songs sounded happy, unlike the annoyance I felt when hearing them the past few years. A trip to the store to buy a new tree resulted in a grand shopping trip where I was a “yes mom”! Yes we can some get new decorations! Yes we can get more lights! Yes…it was all coming back! We were all smiling and getting excited for Christmas! The tasks of the season did not hold the same weighted dread as the past few years. I wanted to do them and it felt good. More importantly, I felt good about it.

Now, here’s where I wish I had a the secret recipe for my change of heart this season, but unfortunately I do not. Everybody’s journey is different and the healing process cannot be replicated. It’s a journey you have to uncover on your own. I will say that my own healing process has been a long and difficult road full of self reflection and it is far from over. I do believe that all of my healing work showed itself to me during this time of year. I see how far I fell and I also see how far I’ve come back. I replaced old negative thoughts (and decorations) with ones of strength and hope. Healing is absolutely a long process, but it continues to show slivers of hope along the way. Your healing path may not look like mine, and it’s not supposed to. You will find what helps you and what heals your soul. When you do, you will just know. You will feel that spark start to come back. I can see the spark once again, even though it’s not as bright as it once was. It is there. My hope is rooted in the belief that with each passing year, it will grow brighter until it has fully returned. No matter what holiday you are struggling with post divorce, please know there is hope. Hope for happiness. Hope for peace. Hope for love and family. Hope for the future. Please hold fast to hope. The spark will return.