I was in a store the other day and noticed Christmas décor being displayed. The thermometer on my front porch was reading 101F and Santa Claus was more than likely still playing golf in Jamaica. I really hate pushing holiday stuff when the air conditioning is still running but this is a conversation we need to have now. However, I promise not to drink gingerbread lattes while I am writing, OK?
Old Traditions - the Ghosts of Christmas Past
Holidays are hard when you’ve gone through a divorce – and they are hard for many reasons. For years, maybe even decades, you’ve done certain things and they’ve become traditions. When you get a divorce you may be tempted to try to continue those traditions – and if you’ve ever spent a holiday season trying to pretend everything is the same you know how depressing that can be.
The problem with trying to keep those old traditions going is that there are usually so many memories attached that the activity can’t possibly live up to the expectations of everyone. I don’t think there are very many of us that can handle trying to recreate holiday magic only to have one of our children burst into tears and tell us it was more fun when Daddy did it.
The answer is to scrap the old and create new ways to celebrate the holidays.
Change Is Inevitable
One of the toughest things for us had to do with those collectible Christmas village houses. You see, I had gotten my ex at least one piece to add to the village every year starting about the fifth or sixth year we were married. By the time we separated during our 30th year that village took up most of our front parlor. Although no one was allowed to touch it but him there was something magical about the twinkling lights of the tree casting shadows and the lighted village on Christmas Eve.
He took the village with him. The first year that the stupid village was gone the tree just looked weird. Over the past few years we’ve begun creating our own village and last year my husband added a train. The kids are allowed to set it up the way they want to and it is a bit more casual.
You know, it’s a hard thing to accept but as time passes things change. We used to go to my parents’ house for Christmas Eve and then my parents would spend Christmas Day with us. That went on for years and then my parents passed away. We had to find a new tradition for Christmas Eve. Everything changes over time. Hanging on to the things we did in the past is unhealthy. Keep the wonderful memories but accept your present circumstances and look for the good things that you are doing now.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things
A divorce gives you and your kids the opportunity to try new things – maybe even get out of a rut. I was surprised when I asked the kids which traditions they wanted to carry on. The things I thought were important to them apparently weren’t.
I kicked the ex out at the end of October. That first Thanksgiving was a haze, but nothing was changed all that much. The next one, however, was very difficult. It was somehow more real to me that things had changed and would never be the same again. One of my children wasn’t really talking to me and the idea of trying to recreate the holiday was overwhelming. I had just remarried and my husband insisted that we just go out to eat. He was very matter of fact about it.
I had fixed a big Thanksgiving feast for 30 years. It’s what I did! The idea of giving up control, skipping “real” Thanksgiving, and going out to eat horrified me.
You know what? The food was mediocre, but no one died. The world did not stop in its orbit around the Sun. Nothing terrible happened. Was it the best Thanksgiving I’d ever had? No, it wasn’t but it wasn’t terrible, either. I began to realize right then that it was OK to let things go. I’ve since gone back to creating holiday feast that would make King Henry VIII feel over-indulged but I don’t stress out about it like I used to.
What Do You Want to Do?
Now you have total freedom to think about how you’d really like to spend your holiday. If the kids are going to be with their dad for Thanksgiving week why not book a cruise or take a vacation you’ve been longing to take? Or, plant yourself in front of the TV and watch all of your favorite movies, order in Chinese, and wear your favorite ratty gray sweats all week. Do something special – be good to yourself!
You can’t go back – and if you are honest with yourself you’ll admit you don’t really want to. Memories always seem to sparkle with rose colored glitter! Reality rarely lives up to the hype.
Ask the kids to each choose one thing that they feel is an important tradition to keep. Then ask them each to come up with a completely new activity to try. You never know, it might turn into a long lasting tradition that created lifelong memories. Don’t be afraid to move on. Your future is waiting and it looks pretty awesome.
Need more ideas? Join First Wives World where you can brainstorm with other women who have been there.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: Mike Willis