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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Home Alone at Christmas - or Not

Several of my close friends are dealing with their first holiday season post separaton or divorce.  It is hard.  There is no way to avoid the changes and broken pieces of a family divided.  It's time to let go of the expectations for a perfect Christmas.  We can’t detour around this brokenness. The only way out is to walk right through. During the holidays the shroud of change can feel especially dark. It will take years before there is a new normal: years with new memories and people to share with. A long time from now, the way things used to be will feel like a lifetime ago. Pain will no longer tinge the sweetness of the memories. But the only way to get to that place is to trudge forward, create another way and new traditions now.

As a single parent, I feel a lot of pressure to "put on" the perfect holiday.  We don't want our children to miss anything because of our own relationship shortcomings.  It's easy to overindulge, overspend and overschedule.  For me, it is important to acknowledge that it just isn't going to be the way it was, but will still be a meaningful and memorable time.  Most importantly, have a plan!  Be flexible, but know what the day will be like. 

Take time to consider:
  • Will you be without your children Christmas morning?  It's natural to feel blue and lonely, but make a plan so it's not completely miserable.  Join another family, meet up with your relatives, volunteer somewhere.  Sleep in!
  • Will the children be leaving midway through the day?  Again, this can be a lonely point so make a plan!  Lots of theatres are open Christmas evening, go see a new release, gather with another friend or travel to visit someone you haven't seen in a while. 
  • Are you prepared? Be sure to have on hand all you need for stockings, meals and incidentals that may come up.  When you're the only adult, you have to think and plan ahead.  Get those gifts wrapped and don't stay up till 2 am Christmas morning doing last minute things.  You want to be rested and ready for the fun!
  • Do you need reinforcements?  This is a good time to call on grandparents, aunts uncles or other close family and friends to join you for the fun.  I always feel like more people make for more festive holidays.
  • Make the best of it! Whether your children are coming or going on Christmas Day, prioritize what is important to you.  Read the books, bake the cookies, eat the feast, hang the stockings.  Pass along the traditions you want your children to cherish. You can do this! 
Remember what you love about the season and focus on the joys.  It's alright if you have a meltdown as you adjust to this new way of doing things.  Perhaps you have been single for years and you've already reached the place of "New Normal" - lucky you!  Last year I struggled greatly with the disconnect between what was supposed to be and what actually happened in my life.  Acknowledging that was part of my healing journey, so let yourself grieve when necessary. 

Share with us if you have any fun tips, special traditions or exciting plans that will help make this Christmas a great one.  I'd love to know what you're dreading, too!  I'll admit that I just inadvertantly invited M's current girlfriend to join us for our Christmas lunch ... I don't know if I'm that much of a modern family!  She'll say no, right?