December 13, 2013
Divorce and separation force some parents into facing an inevitable holiday alone. My first rocked my sense of self and capacity for happiness on a day that had always brought me so much joy. After a lifetime of magical holiday celebrations, it was unfathomable to me that I could be spending one, more or less, ‘alone’.
When I separated over five years ago, we sought to keep that first holiday season as similar as possible. It was not even close to being the same, yet we made an effort to all be together and soften the blow of what had come to pass. The years that followed found me holding change at bay with all my might and yet, deep inside I knew it would eventually come to pass that I would be on my own for one or many.
This compelled me to look at holidays, as well as other special occasions, and ask myself what they really mean to me. Is it the actual day itself? Can togetherness be shared on any day we choose? What does each holiday truly represent for me and how can I celebrate on my own? These questions took me deep and led me to finding a sense of peace and self-understanding no one can take from me.
There also came a deeper understanding of others. As much pain as I felt, I recognized there were countless others who were suffering much greater loss than I was experiencing. What must they be feeling? I found myself with a new appreciation, understanding, and compassion for those people and their pain.
A dear friend brought still yet another perspective to my attention. As I lamented out loud my loss of family and the pending holidays, my unmarried, childless friend looked me straight in the eye and stated, “At least you had it once.” The shock of an unseen angle coursed through my body. I felt embarrassed by my lack of acknowledgement and gratitude. Now my grief had a new meaning. It had been a privilege to experience something wonderful even if I did miss it now.
On Thanksgiving morning this year, as my girls drove away to be with their father and his family, my heart clenched in my chest for a brief time and then it passed. We had been together for several wonderful days and cooked our holiday meal together the night before. Reflecting on our shared time warmed me through and melted the lump in my heart. This has not always been that easy for me.
Holidays are different because I have chosen to make them that way. The time I do have with my daughters is extra precious. The time alone can be filled with friends, good football with chips and guacamole, bonfires with myself, or walks with my beloved dog, Magic. Holidays can be sacred and beautiful even when they are not filled and defined by the presence of my children. And it gets easier with each passing year.