I did it you guys. I survived my very first post-separation Christmas, and I only cried in front of people twice! Hey, that’s pretty good. And in all fairness, one of those times was because nobody saved me any caramelized onion and feta tartlets. I take my food pretty seriously.
Everyone says the first one is the roughest. Who this Everyone is, I have no idea, but Everyone always thinks they’re right. They might be. I don’t know yet, this is my first Christmas since 2000 without my soon-to-be-ex-husband by my side.
It was good and bad, there were highs and lows, and a whole lot of just getting through it.
I had the kids this year, per our custody agreement. First of all, it’s weird having a custody agreement, but it really helps during these times so there’s no ambiguity. Christmas (in our case) is considered to be from 5 p.m. on December 24 to 8 p.m. on December 25. Odd years are mine, even years are his.
More from The Stir: Celebrating Christmas With the Kids, Divorce-Style
It also helped to remember all the things my ex didn’t like about Christmas. I’m kind of a Christmas freak, but a lot of it he could take or leave. And there were a lot of things he barely tolerated -- like Santa. We weren’t even allowed to do the Santa thing, until our first daughter was a toddler and insisted that Santa was real, and Dora was too. After that he just kinda turned a blind eye to it, but I never really felt comfortable tiptoeing around about it. If I tried to talk to him, he would say I was just feeling uncomfortable about lying to the children.
But this post isn’t supposed to be about everything that went wrong in my marriage, so let’s move on. Let’s just say that Santa came to our house this year, and the kids and I celebrated it with relish.
I let the kids be sad when they needed to be sad. I told them I was sad we couldn’t be a family anymore too. By acknowledging the sad parts, we can experience the feeling, grieve the loss, and begin to heal. Part of us will always be broken from all of this, but Christmas is a time for us to focus on Jesus and the miracle of a baby born to heal our broken hearts. So when they needed a cry, I’d hold them and tell them that I loved them, and their daddy loves them too, and would they like to play or read a story or have hot cocoa with peppermint whipped cream? Life goes on.
My friends. My awesome, fabulous friends. They checked in on me all day from all over the country. It helped to feel not so lonely.
My family. My parents live nearby, and we spent a lot of time over at their house. Aunts, uncles, and cousins stepped in too. The girls had a ball, and I didn’t feel like it was all on me.
Just breathing. Sometimes when feelings got reeling, I just had to close my eyes and take a deep breath. This too shall pass.
I handed them over to their dad at 8 p.m. last night, both of them so excited for Christmas 2.0, and to see the friends and family that he got in the divorce. And as hard as it was to let them go, I’m glad their dad is making a good Christmas for them. Who knows? Maybe even Santa came.
Is the first Christmas really the worst?
Image via Tom Cochrane/Flickr