Christmas and divorce–they don’t mix well. But, there’s hope. Divorce doesn’t mean the end of celebration. Instead, those going through divorce find joy in creating new ways to celebrate. New definitions of family. New traditions. The fierce sadness is real. But–there can also be new joy.
Divorce induces some of our toughest emotions this time of year. As the season focusing on family closeness–the losses of divorce contrast starkly. Most feel wounded. Lost. Angry. And, being so visibly out of step with “everyone else” just makes us feel more alone. Instead of looking toward the coming season with despair, how can we reclaim some joy?
Preserve the important past–
One of the most difficult losses can be missing the special traditions that defined family. Those gaping holes in the calendar create holes in us. How can we find joy in that?
If possible, parents can try joining forces. Children’s programs, outings to get the tree, or even Christmas morning–if you and the other parent can work to create a moment that says, “We can still enjoy this time together” you offer a huge gift. To your children. . .and yourselves.
As you pull together to continue special moments from the past, the remembered good times help heal present wounds. More, as you work with the other parent to give children their beloved traditions, you create joy.
When sharing the same moment isn’t possible, work with the other parent to give what matters most to each other. Make a list of your top priorities. Work with your former spouse to create parenting time that allows each of you to look forward to these.
More than just saying, “I want Christmas morning” consider–what makes Christmas morning special. Are there ways to recreate those elements in other contexts? As you craft events with the most important elements, anticipation returns.
And, no matter how you feel about the other person, channel the graciousness of the season by giving him/her what matters the most, as well.
Create the exciting new–
Alongside the old traditions–how can you develop new traditions that bring a fresh joy?
- With children–How can new customs become as special as the old? One father, knowing how important Christmas morning was to mom, opted to give it to her. He chose to claim New Year’s. Each year he took the kids skiing for several days. That celebration became their Christmas. New traditions demonstrate to children that you are still family. You just bond differently now. Not worse. Different.
- With friends–Those times where you feel so alone, find a few friends to create new connections. Though it seems that everyone else is joyful–data show this can be one of the more difficult times of the year for many. Loneliness looms powerfully in a season marked by connection.
- Open your home for a soup supper for friends,
- Go caroling,
- Create a “night of beauty” or a day hike to make a special time for friends.
As you build deeper connections, you create new sources for joy.
- For those in need–The best remedy for personal pain can be reaching out to those suffering more. Whether you volunteer at a homeless shelter, babysit for a couple with a disabled child so they can recharge, take a meal to an elderly neighbor, or ring a Salvation Army bell–focusing on others causes our own pain to recede as we minister to them.
Note and receive what you do have–
We can get so trapped in thinking about what we’ve lost, we lose track of what remains. Health. Friends. Opportunity to try something new. Instead of cursorily passing over these–pause. Receive. Give thanks. If we habitually compare all we don’t have with all others have–we despair. When we develop the habit of instead receiving and living in what we have, contentment grows. Contentment brings joy.
Christmas joy is not reserved for those with intact families. Though grief is real, there can also be joy.