It’s that time of year when we must decide if we are going to be real and authentic about the forced merriment we sometimes have to endure during the holiday season or do life authentically without pretense. I am referring to divorced families who share custody of their children or deal with the blended family created once remarried. Do we hang on to old traditions or create new ones? How do we juggle feelings of loss, betrayal, disappointment, fear, or even anger about a new “family” dynamic?
It has been 20 years since my then husband decided he did not want to be married to me anymore. Our four children were heading into that awkward, identity shaping season of adolescence. It was brutal for them. How do I capture the goodness and joy of the holiday season when all of us are trying to reconfigure a new life? My heart ached as I watched the confusion and the chaos of their young lives try to cope with their new reality. I did everything I knew how to do, I read everything I could regarding dealing with the holidays after families get destroyed by divorce.
The best advice I received was to allow the grieving of the loss play out. Forcing joy and happiness during the holidays makes things worse. Acknowledge that divorce is brutal and during the holidays it is excruciating. Every tradition that a family had gets sidelined and redefined in a divorce. “Divorce feels like a death with no funeral.
Tragically divorce is way too common and it is never easy. Everyone has a story of how hard it is even for the one that wanted to split. There are always unintended consequences and collateral damage.
So how does one who is divorced manage the drama of holiday season with children or step-children?
Keep expectations realistic.
Ask those with whom you will be spending this season what might they want to do during the holidays.
Listen with your heart and refrain from judgement. Feelings are not right or wrong, they are neutral and are important to validate.
Build up coping mechanisms, learn new skills for you and for your children.
Get enough rest.
Find other families that have made it through these times with dignity and grace and use them as role models.
Ask for what you need and make your home an emotionally safe place for others to do the same.
Know that it gets better.
Even though I have been remarried for almost 15 years, divorce never ends. It is especially evident for my grown children around the holidays, the birth of a child, weddings or funerals. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could somehow help individuals couple well with the skills to maintain their relationships and their marriages to go the distance?
That is what we do at the Center for Relationship Education. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org; myrelationshipcenter.org
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