Taking On the Holidays After Separating

The holidays.  The warmth of family and friends.  The festive meals and parties.  The closeness of community.  Or not.

For many people, the holidays are a big fat let down.  They shine a glaring spotlight on our lack of true connection, our loneliness or our deep-down-to-the-bone desire for something unnamable that is missing in our lives.

For people going through separation and divorce during this time, that loneliness is the backdrop against which we navigate NOT being together as a family for the first time.  While the rest of the world is nesting, we’re un-nesting.

We find ourselves suddenly negotiating how to split our children’s time on these special occasions so that they can have dinner with Dad’s family on Christmas Eve and open presents in Mom’s home at the crack of dawn the next morning.  Or we’re spending time alone when it seems as though everyone else is tucked in happily with the people they love. 

The simple traditions that we enjoyed (or not) in past holidays become stilted with tension and false good cheer.  As one recent client begrudgingly said to her former partner, “I guess I can get my hoo-ha up and have you over for Christmas morning.”

Many of us are running around, shopping, baking, decorating, listening to Christmas music, trying to get our hoo-ha up, and attempting to hold at bay the sense that we’re terribly lonely. 

At the core of this malaise is the distance between what we have and what we think we’re supposed to have.  The winter holidays are the ground zero of cultural want. 

We’re supposed to have a turkey, a tree, cookies, and the smell of cinnamon wafting in the air.  We are supposed to have an intact family, relatives and friends that we enjoy spending time with, and plenty of money to give creative and meaningful gifts to all. 

Santa is only the first myth of the holidays we’re taught to believe.

Imagine how uncomfortable it would be if you tried to continue believing in Santa into adulthood, even when he no longer brings you presents.  When we hold onto the belief that we’re entitled to some sort of holiday bliss, it’s at attachment to a different type of myth.  The myth that we can be happy all of the time and not experience loneliness, loss or sadness.

Once we decide to let go of our expectations about what we’re supposed to be feeling or doing around the holidays, we can enjoy the little moments in between. 

Here are some things you can let go of to make your holidays easier:

·   Let go of comparisons with other people

·   Let go of the need to be with your children throughout all of the holidays

·   Let go of perfectionism

·   Let go of anger at your former partner for making this happen

·   Let go of the idea that you shouldn’t spend time alone during the holidays

·   Let go of Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart

·   Let go of the notion that your supposed to be happy during the holidays

In fact, I’m pretty sure that letting go of our expectations about what is supposed to be is at the core to all happiness.  The holidays provide an excellent opportunity to practice.