Christmas Coping

Divorce holiday triggering is real.  Currently, I’m holding BOTH an attitude of peace & frustration.  As I reflected this morning on my holiday plans, what I heard “inside” was: 

  • let it go
  • let it be
  • honor yourself

If you are a person contemplating divorce, going through the process, or on the “struggle bus” of post-divorce recovery, I want to let you know:

  • I get it.
  • I get you.
  • There is HOPE.

When married, I felt inauthentic & burdened; I longed for alone time.  I dreamed of having my own space & not needing to factor in someone else’s rhythm & needs on top of the disconnection & disappointment I felt about our partnership.

My first Christmas “out” was magical.  It was quiet & drama free.  I drove to our marital home where my ex & I spent the morning with our son.  It felt great to share the connection & to leave when I was “done”.  At the time I had a new connection with a new guy who was also recently separated, & our time together was meaningful to me… especially after so many holidays where I experienced disconnection.

The pink cloud of being “free” eventually passed; the new guy turned into an epic “FGO” & the divorce journey unfolded in a variety of positive & negative ways….

My greatest wish has always been to have my own connected & fulfilling family life.

NOT having this has been a life-long source of GRIEF.

In my family of origin, addiction, abuse, & neglect were present & my parents three separations ended in their high conflict divorce.  The hurt ran deep & wide for all & impacted every relationship dynamic within & outside of the family.  Witnessing this shattering & being unable to stop it or make it better was horrific; a true wound of #CPTSD. 

Like other #CPTSD survivors, parts of me made some solemn vows to NEVER do or be what I saw.  I only wanted to get it right & create what I longed for. 

Even though I was unhappy in my marriage, I HELD ON for years.  Leaving was never what I wanted, for any of us.  I have since learned quitting is sometimes the healthiest thing. For me leaving was needed for my personal well being. Few people know how difficult it is to be the person to make the decision to divorce. My childhood family of origin (FOO) experiences compounded this angst.

I had hoped for a collaborative divorce process & envisioned a future of co-parenting success.  Not so, more injuries sustained.  The “othering”, conscious or not, = another wound.

Although I can be introverted & enjoy my alone time, I’ve spent many major holidays by myself.  That kind of lonely, a sense of “not belonging,” is not restorative or celebratory.

Can you relate?

I suspect many divorcees get the:

-grief for what you did get

-grief for what you didn’t get

-grief for what you haven’t gotten & may not.

I wish I could tell you I have it ALL figured out; I don’t.  It has gotten better over time as I have turned towards my grief. 

Here are some strategies that have worked for me.  Maybe it will help you as well:

  • Don’t resist the grief, make room for it with compassionate witnessing in your alone time or with a trusted other.
  • Embrace a “single” mindset: You have the freedom to say “YES!” and “NO!” to what & who you want. 
  • Lower expectations of yourself:  Work, kids, parties, shopping, decorating, on top of “normal” single parenting is a lot! 
  • Lower expectations of others:  As a transplant & without family nearby, I had to accept that my friends (single & married) are busy with their own family obligations.  While I have more free time, they often do not.  Trips “home” are not always possible.  I now plan to make that alone time restful & reflective.
  • Traditions & rituals:  Permission granted to keep what you like & embrace the new.  I imagine one day I may travel over the holidays or host a gathering for other “disenfranchised” singles, but for now my new tradition is to buy a fancy bottle of wine, eat snacks, & enjoy a low pressure, peaceful day of doing what I want when I want. 

If this article resonates, I hope you found some comfort in knowing you are not alone in the “divorce & holiday” challenges.

For those struggling with marital ambivalence, relationship status changes, transplant challenges, complex family dynamics, or living as a HSP in an extrovert’s world, I get you. 

From my heart to yours, I wish you peace, connection, contentment, health, & hopefully some joy this season & beyond! 

Hold HOPE for a brighter & happier future & remember you have a resource to help you #reset!

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