I am sitting alone on Thanksgiving morning with the dog, drinking a cup of coffee and reflecting on the fact this is the first Thanksgiving without my daughter. The way our parenting plan and schedule worked out this year I won’t be with my daughter on Halloween, Thanksgiving, her actual birthday, and Christmas Eve & Christmas morning. Needless to say, the holidays have hit differently for me this year.
I have had a multitude of feelings about spending some of my first holidays alone post-divorce. First and foremost, I am sad, but I get this was a natural consequence. It wasn’t unexpected in that way. It has been hard fielding questions about how my daughter liked Halloween or how she dressed up (I dunno because I wasn’t there) or what my plans are for Thanksgiving. This whole experience has also given me the ability to understand how my mom felt when we went to our dad’s for the holidays. It’s a bit different, since we only saw my dad on holidays & weekends, but I recognize the sameness of our situations in spending holidays alone. I do have compassion for her experience, as this is not an easy time to navigate, but also disappointment in that she guilt tripped us and made us feel bad for seeing our other parent. That is something I have been thoroughly intentional about…I do not want my daughter to feel guilt at seeing her dad or spending time with her dad. Divorce is hard enough on a kid; there is no need for a parent to layer their own guilt on top of an already challenging situation for a child.
I also have felt anger towards my ex-husband. We were in an amicable co-parenting place before he allowed another woman to move in and run the show and our co-parenting relationship has taken a hit as a result. I would have loved for an invitation to have been extended to me to spend at least a few hours together with our daughter on this day. But that hasn’t happened. I don’t think it will materialize in the future, so I am left to cope with this reality solely on my own.
I have come to realize that the first holidays feel similarly to the experience of navigating the first year after someone dies. As you approach these days, you realize things have been forever altered. It can be filled with emotional landmines as you grieve the loss of your intact family and any traditions you may have had. I was unpacking Christmas décor and stumbled across a paper mache snowman I bought with my ex on a trip to Mexico City. I smiled at the memory while feeling a pang of sorrow and then promptly threw it in the trash. I hope you do not romanticize the past with your ex, as there was a reason why the two of you got divorced. Although the memory made me smile, I recognize that my life is ultimately far more peaceful and joyful NOW post-divorce then it ever was married. Despite any grief I may feel about this time, I know in my heart I made the absolute right decision for myself. I was invited to friends, and while I appreciated the generous offer, I declined it, as I wanted to allow myself space to grieve and navigate this new normal on my own.
Let’s not also forget the positives too. It is a time for you to CREATE new traditions on those holidays you DO have you child. My kid is old enough now for us to bake Christmas cookies together. I love baking and want to involve her in a new tradition where we make Christmas cookies for friends and neighbors. Although not new, we adopt local kids from our Boys and Girls Club because I want her to realize there are kids in this world that have socks, underwear or a winter coat on their wish list for Christmas. Despite the difficult journey our family has gone through, we still are very fortunate. I want her to see the holiday is not all about receiving; it is about giving. It is about helping where you can to make your community and world a better place. And it’s an opportunity for you personally, dear one. I decided to see a movie later today by myself. I booked the ticket last night and am looking forward to movie theater popcorn later! While I am not cooking a full on Thanksgiving dinner for myself, I did get from the store certain holiday foods I love (stuffing, pumpkin pie. etc.) and plan to cook them later. It is not all sadness and grieving; there are some hopeful, joyful moments during this time.
If you are going through the holidays post-divorce for the first time like me, my heart goes out to you. My wish is for healing and love to surround you, even in those tough moments. Know that it is not all bad, it will get better, and you will get through it. Be hopeful for your future.