Divorce Magazine

Reclaiming Your Life

By Richard Crooks @FindGodindivorc
HOLIDAY OVERLAYSReclaiming Your Life
Here in the USA, yesterday was celebrated as Independence Day, a national holiday that is a day off from work for most of us, to be spent with family, food and fireworks.  If you live here in the USA, I hope you found some joy in yesterday’s celebrations.  The other day I had a conversation with a friend about holidays and how divorce impacts them for years to come, and thought I would share some of it with you.There is a degree of ambivalence that someone divorced often experiences in the time of holidays.  The discomfort can be especially hard when children are involved and one’s schedule is dominated by compromise and court orders, especially if one’s ex chooses to operate with a lack of consideration.  But even without that, individuals can sometimes find that holidays lack the joy and energy they had once experienced.  Why is that?I think part of the answer can be found in a comment another friend of mine made many years ago.  At the time, I was recently divorced and struggling, and my friend had been divorced many years previously and was happily remarried.  I asked how long it takes to get over the devastation of divorce, and my friend’s response was that she didn’t think one ever really “gets over it,” but that one does move on.  I believe the wisdom of her reply is seen in the celebration of holidays.  When one is young and starting out life, there are lots of hopes and dreams of how things will be.  Upon getting married, the new couple begins developing their holiday traditions and finding the kind of celebrations that work well for them.  Memories of special times develop, comfort and joy is found the patterns and dependability that is established, with each year’s celebration reinforcing the last and bringing back fond memories.Then divorce comes along, and the expectation of life together “till death do you part” is suddenly cast aside, and the comfortable traditions suddenly are shattered with the newly divorced person trying to pick up the pieces to salvage some meaningful pieces to hold together for the future.  Some may not hang on to those pieces so much as they choose to establish new patterns and meanings.  In either case, one goes through the holiday with the new celebrations, but memories of what once was and a sense of loss for what might have been, what had been hoped for and expected.  It is a grieving process, with the holiday itself being the trigger of memories from days gone by and recognition of time moving on.  Fireworks may bring to mind a favorite display of years long past.  The flavor of bar-be-que meals can trigger memories unexpectedly.  The same sort of thing may come with Christmas decorations and music, Valentine’s dinners, or any host of holiday traditions.  As a result, the joy of the present is mingled with joys of the past, and a degree of loss or grief when bittersweet memories unexpectedly surface.  In fact, I have heard some say that holidays are never the same again.Some people might say one should just forget the past and move on, not let those things bother you.  Personally, I don’t believe life can be so neatly compartmentalized.  Our lives are a blend of all we have experienced and hoped, all we have lost and gained, all we desire and reject.  Life is simply a mixed bag.  Anyone attempting to suppress a painful past will find that such attempts create a fragmented and unhealthy life.  Better to accept all that life has brought our way, and find meaning for each memory and each chapter of our lives.As time goes by, new memories often overlay the old, new traditions bring new meanings, old traditions find their place in a new chapter of life.  But even as that process takes place, painful memories can pop up unexpectedly.  If you have experienced the ambivalence of holiday celebration, I thought it might be helpful to know that you are not alone.  In the midst of it all, perhaps I could offer a suggestion.The word, “holidays” originates from “holy days.”  Consider what might happen if you chose to return to the roots of holidays, by finding ways to make them “holy days” in your life.  Perhaps start a tradition of making a special time on every holiday dedicated to spending time alone with God.  One could read biblical passages of the ancient celebrations and thus be part of a long history of holy days.  One could use the day to reflect on special passages of scripture that have precious memories from your life tied to them.  Perhaps a morning devotional walk out in nature, or a few minutes at lunchtime meditating in a church building would be more fitting for you.  In doing so, you engage with God as together you reclaim your own holiday celebrations, and God can bring healing and new life to these times you hold dear.

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