Ready or not, here come the holidays! Without a doubt, it’s one of the most challenging times a divorced or divorcing couple can face. One way to make it easier on yourself: avoid thinking about the season “as it always was.”
Of course, we all love holiday traditions, and for good reason. Traditions are comforting. They give us feelings of safety and stability in uncertain times. But there are also times we need to let go of old traditions and create new ones.
For my gang, our first and second Christmases were bumpy. Christmas #1 came just one month after my ex-husband moved out. We had to decide:
- Were we still a family or not?
- Would my ex stay over on Christmas Eve?
- Should Christmas morning and day look just as they always had in the past?
- Should my family come visit, just as they always had?
Our answer was “yes” to all of the above. We were still a family, he would stay over Christmas Eve, and we would have Christmas as we always had.
Well, that Christmas was full of tension and hidden anger in one form or another. The adults, the children, and even the visiting family members found themselves on a roller coaster ride of emotions. The celebration had all the elements of the past, but it wasn’t anything like it always was. In fact, we were all extremely relieved when it was over.
The second Christmas, we remembered our mistakes from the previous year and agreed the two of us should celebrate separately. Decisions still had to be made, but the questions had changed. How should we divide our kids’ time? Would we give gifts jointly or not?
We managed to figure things out, but despite our best efforts, we still repeated some of our mistakes from Year 1. We tried to do things the way we always had. In particular, the division of gifts between the two homes didn’t work out so well.
We needed new traditions to mix in with the old. We had to let go of the idea of “as it always was.”
The holidays became easier as the years went on and we worked out the kinks. We established new traditions. Our stress levels went down. We got better at preparing for these crazy days.
Are you facing Christmas #1? Hang on for the ride - and try to let go of some of your “always were” expectations. Rest assured, you’ll hit some bumps. We all did. It will be better next year, I promise.
If you’re past those first few years and you can share experiences that might be helpful to others, please do! What mistakes did you make on that first Holiday?
For everyone, may you enjoy the beauty of the Holiday you celebrate, look toward the future, and let some of those “always were” memories stay in the photo album.