Category Archives: the holidays after a divorce

Blessed

Christmas is only a few days away. I am keenly aware that this time of year can be incredibly stressful on its own without adding the additional stress of going through a divorce. I also know that the holidays can be a painful part of the year, too – especially if one has experienced a loss during the year. I remember the first holiday season after my dad died – we felt empty, like something was missing. The holidays are still a rough time for my mom because she misses my dad so much.

I divorced right before Christmas seven years ago. As a result, I didn’t have much money, but I did have a great deal of anger. I was angry that my finances were shot. I was angry that my children did not have good holiday memories like I did. I was angry that ex had more money and was able to give my children more for Christmas than I was. That first Christmas after my divorce was not a very good one.

I was so angry for so long that I lost sight of one thing – how blessed I was. I had a roof over my head, a job, food in my cupboards, a car that ran and people who loved me. God had provided the things I needed. There is a big difference between needs and wants. Our needs are those basics we need for survival, food, shelter and clothing. The wants are everything else – a car, a cell phone, new shoes. Even with as little as I had, I was still richer than many people in other parts of the world.

I am blessed. I do not have the latest and greatest of everything – I don’t need it. I don’t have a car with all the bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I content with what I have, where I am, and with whom I am sharing my life. I have man who loves me. I have a new grand baby. I have six amazing children. My mom is in good health. My siblings are all doing well. I have a good job and a good boss. I have two hilarious pups who think I am everything. I have wonderful friends. What else is there?

The floor beneath my Christmas tree is not stacked high with gifts. I didn’t go into debt to buy gifts this year. My bills are paid. I am content. I am blessed. I thank God for keeping me in His care. As this year comes to a close, I do not wish for next year to bring financial prosperity or more stuff, I wish for more opportunities to serve – my coworkers, my family, Cycle Dude, my church and my community. I am blessed and I wish to bless others.

Keep a quiet heart this holiday season as you meditate on the reason for the season – Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by expectations, relationships and unfulfilled promises. Know that you are loved. Stay tuned. . . .

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Tell Your Heart to Beat Again*

It’s easy for me to feel happy and contented seven years post-divorce. I wasn’t always happy and contented after my divorce. The first few months, even years, after my divorce, I was still angry and bitter. It took a long time to get over that. I eventually went to see a counselor for PTSD. Yes, women who have been through a divorce do experience PTSD, especially if there was any kind of abuse involved, no matter how subtle.

Even though Cycle Dude and I started dating not long after my divorce, I was still angry and bitter, though I made sure not to take it out on Cycle Dude. I worked diligently to get past the anger and bitterness in order to have a good relationship with him. He was so patient with me. I cannot express how much that meant to me.

I was listening to my Pandora Praise and Worship station this morning when the song, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey started to play. The first verse and chorus are this:

You’re shattered Like you’ve never been before The life you knew In a thousand pieces on the floor And words fall short in times like these When this world drives you to your knees You think you’re never gonna get back To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again Close your eyes and breathe it in Let the shadows fall away Step into the light of grace Yesterday’s a closing door You don’t live there anymore Say goodbye to where you’ve been And tell your heart to beat again (*Songwriters: Matthew West, Bernie Herms, Randy Phillips – performed by Danny Gokey).

The phrase, “Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore; say goodbye to where you’ve been. . .” spoke volumes to me. I don’t want to be the me I used to be. I am not the same person I was when I got divorced. I don’t live with that anger and bitterness anymore. Yesterday is long past. My heart can beat again. I no longer feel that ache in the pit of my stomach. I no longer cry myself to sleep. God has used Cycle Dude and his unconditional love, two friends and their incredible wisdom and His Word to heal my heart.

Let the healing balm of the love of Christ wash over you this holiday season. Take some time to sit in the silence of your living room and listen – to the quiet, to the voice of God, to your own heartbeat. Healing will come and your heart will beat again. Stay tuned. . .

 

Grace and Peace to You

I attend a church small group on Thursday evenings. The church and the small group are both fairly new to me, but they are a good place to be. Last night, as we were sharing prayer requests, one lady shared that a co-worker had taken his own life after being laid-off from his job. The gentleman was in his early 30’s with a wife and two children. One of the small group members made the comment that the holidays are an especially difficult time for some people – more so when they experience a loss during the season (job loss, death of a loved one, etc.).

This may be your first holiday season after a divorce or you may be enduring a difficult marriage. Your children may be grown and married, or they may still be young enough to need your guidance. Your spouse or your ex may be a jerk who makes holidays horrible. I have known the pain of a difficult marriage, of living with a passive aggressive narcissist, of trying to hold things together for the sake of the children. I know how hard it can be. I contemplated suicide several times during that difficult time in my life.

My best friend often reminded me of my children, of my dogs, of those who love me. Rascal Flatts sings a song, “Why”. Part of the chorus is, “Who told you life wasn’t worth the fight/They were wrong, they lied.” There is no place so bad that it is not worth fighting to get out of. Life is precious and beautiful and worth living. Grace and peace to you if you are struggling this holiday season. I pray for God to place His gentle hand on your shoulder and let you know everything will be ok. After all, He promises to never, never, never leave nor forsake us.

May I prescribe a dose of “The Muppets Christmas Carol” and a mug of hot chocolate? May God bless you this holiday season. May you know the reality of His presence. May you know the Love that sent Christ to this earth as a small, helpless babe. Stay tuned. . . .

Holiday Grace

The holidays were always a crazy, chaotic time for me growing up. I am one of six children, so we always had a crowd at the dinner table. I remember going to visit my grandparents in Chicago. My mom’s parents and my dad’s parents didn’t live that far away from one another, so we had to visit both sets of grandparents.

My mom’s parents had this wonderful, magic expanding kitchen table. It was a little round thing that somehow expanded to ten times its size in order to accommodate all the relatives that were there for the holiday. My grandma, mom and aunt would be in the kitchen the day before the holiday and all day the day of the holiday, baking, cooking, tasting, basting, etc. Grandma’s house smelled sooo good! I have wonderful memories of the holidays from when I was a child (except the Christmas when I learned there was no Santa – but that’s another topic for another time).

I often tried to duplicate the same holiday traditions, smells, etc. so my children could experience the wonderful holidays I experienced. Sometimes that didn’t quite work out like I wanted it to. Ex would throw tantrums and stomp off into the bedroom. I was glad for some holiday peace and quiet after I divorced.

If this is your first holiday after a separation or divorce, take it easy on yourself. This year, my local adult children and I are combining Thanksgiving and Christmas into one holiday gathering in early December. This is the first time we’ve done this and we may be creating a new tradition. Since the divorce, my holidays have been different. For one thing, they have been more peaceful! I am not caught in the throes of burdensome holiday traditions and schedules, I am not at the mercy of someone else’s family, and I am not having to make excuses for anyone’s behavior.

My first post-divorce holiday season was a mere eight days after my divorce. I had not lived with ex for a year, so the holiday without him wasn’t much of a shock. However, I learned a few things: make time for yourself; it’s okay to decline holiday parties you don’t want to go to; if an activity is a stressor, either do less of it or don’t do it at all (example, curb your holiday baking by a good 90%); relax your holiday expectations. Give yourself grace this holiday season. Jesus wasn’t born in the midst of all the holiday hubbub. He was born on a quiet night, in a barn with the animals as His only attendants. Be at peace this holiday season. Stay tuned . . . .

 

Life Will Go On

I normally don’t post twice in one day, but I read a post from another lady who is on the healing journey from her divorce. She posted about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with her son. He asked if they were going to celebrate even if it was just the two of them.

My children are grown and married and have all moved away. I still put up my Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and have continued to do so in the years after my divorce. Ex never really enjoyed celebrating the holidays anyway. This year, there was only me and my dogs to enjoy the decorations – and Cycle Dude when he would come over. I love to sit with all the lights off and just have the Christmas tree lights on – I find that very peaceful.

Just because one is divorced doesn’t mean one shouldn’t still live life! Celebrating the holidays, any holiday, after your divorce is a chance to make even better memories and traditions. Cycle Dude and I went down to Florida in 2015 to celebrate Thanksgiving with my sister and brother and their families. It was an enjoyable time. We celebrate the holidays with my grown children as well, though not on the holiday itself because they all have in-laws who want their time, too. The point is that we make the time to celebrate.

Being divorced has given me a blank slate. How do I want to celebrate the holidays and other important days in my life? How do I want to make those days special? This has become a time that I live life the way I want to – not the way some other family’s traditions force me to.

Dear one, part of the healing from your divorce is celebrating – holidays, birthdays, good grades, job promotions, etc. Celebrating is sharing the joy that others bring into your life. Don’t allow ex to ‘win’ in that you live your life is despair. There is joy in each day, each smile of your children, each tail wag from your dog or leg rub from your cat. Celebrate that you are healing and moving forward!

The lady I mentioned at the beginning of this post told her son that yes, they were going to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, even though it was just the two of them, because they are a family and that’s what they do.  Kudos! Life will go on. Stay tuned. . . .

Stress Less During the Holidays

The holidays are usually a crazy time of the year anyway, but being divorced seems to make them even more so. You are short on time and money, you may have to share the holidays with ex or members of his family, you need to juggle time with your children, and you or others may still have pretty high expectations for you. STOP!! Put on the brakes! Because of your divorce, this holiday will be different – that’s the nature of things. Don’t let the holidays add to the stress of your life at this point.

1. Plan ahead: You know the holidays are coming – it happens every year about this time. Keep a list on your fridge of things you need to do, gifts you need to buy, etc. I have a small white board on my fridge. It’s my best organizational buddy! If I know a party is coming up, I bake ahead of time instead of waiting until the night before. Do as much as you can ahead of time.

2. Don’t procrastinate: You know the saying, “Don’t put off ’till tomorrow what you can do today”? If you leave your holiday shopping, etc. to the last minute, you will surely be stressed and hopelessly overwhelmed. If planning ahead overwhelms you, make a list and cross one thing off every day or every other day. Do what works for you.

3. Lower your expectations: All those things you did with ex, all the traditions you thought you had to keep – toss them out the window! Now is the time to make new traditions. Make the holiday what YOU want it to be, not what others want it to be. I don’t put out all my Christmas decorations, nor do I drag out all the ornaments for my tree. I put out the decorations I really like. This year, I decorated Thanksgiving weekend. I normally don’t do that. But it’s my apartment and my decorations, so I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. As a result, I am not rushed to put up my tree and decorations.

4. Make a budget and stick to it: It’s so easy to go whacko crazy with your credit card around the holidays. Word of advice – DON’T! Budget out how much you can afford to spend and don’t go over that limit. You may need to drop some folks from your Christmas gift list, or from your Christmas card list. You may need to go cheaper this year – smaller denomination gift cards or homemade cookies or candy. You may not have a whole lot of money after your divorce. Don’t start out the new year, and your new life, by digging a financial hole you cannot get out of. Don’t live above your means. If your friends and family have a problem with cheaper gifts this year, just tell them, “I need to stick with my budget”. Mary Poppins said, “I never explain anything!” Don’t feel like you need to explain your decision.

5. Take some time for YOU: I love to sit in my napping chair (my amazing $50 estate sale find) with a glass of wine and my dogs snoozing on either side of me. I turn off the lights and turn on my Christmas tree. Sometimes, I will have soft Christmas music playing in the background. I enjoy the quiet, the beauty of my tree, the companionship of my dogs, and the relaxing peacefulness of my home. That time alone is my recharge time. At other times, I may read a book, or watch a movie and knit, but that time is just for me. I find the snoring of my dogs to be quite soothing!

Above all, remember – if it’s not done by Christmas Eve, it wasn’t meant to get done. This holiday is for YOU. Gone are all the crazy things you did or did not do with ex. Want to go somewhere for Christmas? Stay home? Go see a local Christmas play? Light display? Sing ‘Jingle Bells” at the top of your lungs? Do it!! Gone are the expectations for that “perfect” holiday. Take time this season to slow down, to sit down, to take stock of where you are. The best gift you can give yourself this Christmas is less stress. Trust me, you will thank yourself for it! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Thankful

I hosted Thanksgiving dinner yesterday for Cycle Dude and his adult children. I usually decorate with fall decorations, make a centerpiece complete with candles, and bake so the apartment smells really good. I enjoy the holidays because of all the good memories I have from my childhood. I try to make the holidays special for those around me.

When I got home from work on Wednesday, I realized I had left my iPad behind. There was no way I was going to fight the traffic on Wednesday just to go back to work for my iPad. Yesterday morning, I took my pups on a ride to retrieve my iPad. On the way, I prayed and thanked God for all the blessings He has given me – my children, my Cycle Dude, my dogs, my home, my car, my friends, my job, my church, food on my table, a warm bed on a cold night, relatively good health, great coworkers, and the list goes on. My list took me to work and back! I have a great deal to be thankful for.

If this is your first holidays season after a divorce, I know it can be lonely, depressing, confusing, etc. I would encourage you to reflect on the following:

1.  Who am I? Very often, we tend to lose ourselves in our family as we are wife and mom. A couple of days after my divorce, I realized I was no longer Mrs. Ex. I was now Ms. Me. But who is Ms. Me? The divorce presented me with an opportunity to figure out who I was aside from my children. I will always be their mom, but I was no longer a Mrs. Take some time this season to discover you.

2. What can I do? Take this time to find out what you are capable of. Are you having to do finances on your own for the first time? Figure out car repair? Or home repair? Don’t say, “I can’t do this!” Instead say, “I will learn how to do this.” You will acquire some new skills. I learned how to change a flat tire.

3. Where do I want to go? You are at a crossroads – your life has taken on a new direction. Where do you want it to go? Do you want to return to school? Take a class at a community college. Do you want to learn a new skill? Find a group in your community that you can hook up with – ex. learning to knit, sew, cook, do home repair. Your local home repair store (Home Depot, Lowe’s) has classes you can sign up for. Find resources in your community and take advantage of them.

4. How can I help? There are so many needs in our communities – opportunities to give and to volunteer. If you cannot give, volunteer. Many agencies are desperately in need of volunteers. Giving of your time to a cause you believe in is a good way to explore the other questions listed above.

5. What can I leave behind? Everyone leaves behind a legacy when they die – good or bad. This morning, I learned that Florence Henderson (“Carol Brady”) passed away. What kind of legacy did she leave behind? Many people knew her as “America’s Mom” from her role on the Brady Bunch. She will be fondly remembered for her unconditional love for her Brady brood. What kind of legacy will you leave behind? What will people remember you for? We can’t all be world-famous whatever, but we can positively affect our small corner of the world.

As we enter the holiday season, let us be thankful that we have an opportunity to explore who we are and give of our time, talent and resources to those who need them. Give thanks with a grateful heart. Stay tuned. . . .