Here they come: the Christmas and New Year family celebrations and the chore of having to put on a smiling face for relatives, having to answer sensitive questions and enduring well-intentioned but painful comments about how your life is after divorce.
Divorced men and women often endure extremely awkward and difficult holiday gatherings and inevitably, there are comments that make you wince like, “Don’t worry, there’s someone better for you out there…” or “Now that you’re rid of ‘Old Blockhead,’ you can start enjoying life.”
Bah, hum bug!
Conversations like these can make anyone want to barricade themselves in their room and not emerge until the second week in January when things have settled down and seem to be relatively safe. The comments can be hard to hear, but they often take a backseat to the fact that the real pain comes from the constant reminder that your family is no longer in-tact. What can you do to get through the holidays gracefully?
Here is what I think is the most important thing to do: Try to remember that your family doesn’t like to see you suffer and they want to do something to help take away your pain.
Most of the time what seems to be a careless statement is actually rooted in their desire to find some way to fix the problem. Suffering makes people uncomfortable, especially when it’s happening to someone they love.
I’ll never forget my father telling me at one point, “I wish I could just wave a magic wand over you and take all the pain away.”
Even for those people who are divorced after living through abuse and relationships filled with anger, there is relief in not having to go through that at the holiday, but still the awkwardness of what questions may arise.
Next and equally as important, begin planning now for the time you will have off from work or school by scheduling activities. Volunteering is always a great way to take the focus off your sadness. Make sure you have as little time alone to feel sorry for yourself as possible. Parish events, Eucharistic adoration, entertaining nieces and nephews, serving the homeless, etc. are some great ways to take the focus off of yourself and walk away from the downtime feeling better and knowing you were helping someone.
Finally, use these last final couple of days before Christmas to remain focused on this season of preparation for Christ’s birth. A suggestion here would be to take the emotions you feel and unite them with what Mary and Joseph had to go through as they, too, tried to find their way through a very uncertain and difficult time in their lives, the sudden midnight trip to Bethlehem, having to find shelter and privacy in a stable…
Ask the Holy Family to obtain the graces you need to live the true meaning of Christmas and I believe you will find your own Christmas miracles in the process.