In any divorce, there are unexpected losses. With almost every single woman I’ve ever talked to about the realities of post-divorce life, they have indicated that there was something that was particularly difficult about their divorce that took them completely by surprise. For almost all of these women, the unanticipated but difficult event had something to do with family rituals. Specifically, HIS family rituals.
In a marriage, you combine two families and, over time, you come to expect and look forward to the traditions established from the other side of the family. It may be that his family opens presents on Christmas Eve, or always hosts a huge Fourth of July party at their beach house. They may make a huge fuss over birthdays, or have elaborate out-of-town family reunions with their elaborate extended family. While you and your husband were a Mr. and a Mrs., you were a welcome addition. Probably without even thinking about it, you became a part of the ritual. After the divorce proceedings were initiated, you suddenly feel completely cast out from the family traditions that used to be his but had also become yours.
If the two of you have children in common, it will also be hard to watch your children be a part of traditions that you no longer share. It’s normal to feel this way, and it’s a common unexpected byproduct of divorce—even for people who wanted to get divorced. It’s only natural that there will be certain things that you miss, even if the marriage itself was less than ideal.
With the Christmas season approaching, you may be feeling a little bit sadder than you expected to feel. Whatever your ex (or soon to be ex) husband’s family did to celebrate the holiday will probably still go on, with or without you. The hardest part is probably that you’re not welcome, even though your children still obviously are. Listening to them talk about making gingerbread houses, or baking sugar cookies, unwrapping presents on Christmas Eve, or eating grandma’s special Christmas pies might feel like a dagger in your heart.
These losses can feel substantial and surprising. If he “got Christmas” this year, know that you’re not alone. Take the extra free time to establish new traditions, or re-join your own family for events that you neglected during your marriage in the hustle and bustle of trying to spend time with both families during those precious few Christmas holiday hours. Remember, too, that a holiday is more than a day marked on a calendar. A holiday is marked by the time that you get to spend with family and close friends. If your ex “gets Christmas” this year, then you can make the 26th (or 27th or 28th or whenever works for you) YOUR Christmas. Take that opportunity to do all the things you’re afraid you’ll miss, but add in a new tradition, too. Over time, your new traditions will give even the old traditions a new, fresh feeling—and you’ll feel a part of what was important to you, but part of something new, too.