This is a topic I have written about extensively in the past, but since I consider myself a divorce advocate I wanted to re-visit it. The holidays are rough…hang in there guys! 🙂
I wanted to write this piece because I really think a lot of the “Advice for Divorced People” websites, books and other resources might be written by people who have never actually been divorced. Some of the post-divorce holiday advice is extremely helpful, and some comes across as overly chipper, insensitive and a bit clueless.
My first Christmas without my husband I felt completely numb. I had made the mistake of having an intense rebound relationship before I was ready. That brief affair ended dramatically less than a month before Christmas. On the big day itself, I sat in my aunt’s house surrounded by my family and felt nothing. Everyone looked at me as if I was a ghost. It had only been six months since I found out the truth about my marriage. Nine years of my life that I thought was the strongest relationship I had ever had, was now a fraud. I found it especially painful that I was sharing the holiday with relatives who were in my wedding party. It meant so much for me to have them a part of that day. I wanted to go up to each one of them and apologize for letting them down. We were all actors in a play that had gotten re-written midway. Instead of a happy ending, it closed with a surprise twist and tragic finale. My loss overwhelmed me with a deep sense of shame. None of my relatives blamed me, but I couldn’t escape the guilt. Ultimately, I had picked the wrong partner. Little did I know things for me were going to have to get much worse for me before they got better. I was about to spiral out of control into an episode of life-threatening depression.
That was three years ago, and much has happened in my life since then. I haven’t really had much romance, but I have healed and moved forward. My marriage had been the center of my happiness. I had made myself co-dependent on one person and I paid dearly for that mistake. Now I have this crazy network of unique, creative and astonishingly wonderful friends to whom I am eternally grateful. I never want to go back to isolating myself emotionally to one person. The trauma of my divorce also helped heal wounds I had with my family. I feel healthier and happier than I have in years. But there is always the holiday season, when the gray clouds loom and I find myself fighting back the demons in my head.
If you are newly divorced and reading this, I am not going to sugarcoat your obstacles. Divorce is hell. It can cause a slew of emotional problems and even trigger mental illness. The catastrophe of divorce can also fuel substance abuse and any number of self-destructive behaviors. Anyone who has gone through a divorce understands the added loss of friendships and family members. Some friends you thought were lifelong will drift away post-split. You might also be worried about your children, or blame yourself for failing them. For many divorced people the biggest hurdle is overcoming the feeling of shame.
Don’t listen to those negative voices. Marriages fall apart for all sorts of reasons. Many couples just fall out of love, or learn they can’t live with each other in a healthy environment. Other marriages are frauds from day one with partners victimized in green card scams, serial cheaters, or deceitful spouses. You have every right to feel angry and to express pain, but at the end of the day, it is better to focus on repairing the damage and moving forward. Regardless of who ended the marriage, both partners experience damage. You can succumb and spiral downward or you can fight back. Get help if you need it, either through therapy, counseling or medication. Don’t let depression or substance abuse take over your life. It will get better. Your fairy tale may have fallen apart, but you will have another chapter. Even though it might feel like it, your life is not over.
There is no substitute for time. However bad you feel now, know that it won’t always be like this. The holiday season is just hyped up to make a lot of people a lot of money. In the long run it is just a short time out of the year and it will be over before you know it. A better day to celebrate might be seeing a movie with your kids, or a football game with your dad, or just having drinks with your best friend. Don’t let the build up of holiday parties and family obligations get to you. As I have said many times on this blog, no one is fortunate all of the time. We all have our ups and downs, and if you are recently divorced, you are going through a lot. Just remember, things will get better, and you are not alone. Much Love.
- What’s the legal difference between annulment and divorce? (legalzoom.com)
- Life After Divorce: Do you Really Have to Be Friends with your Ex? (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Life After Divorce: A Change in Perspective (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Life After Divorce: When you Lose Half your Friends (julietjeskeblog.com)
- On Being a Straight Spouse: Broken Memories (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Life After Divorce: Do You Feel Worthy of Love? (julietjeskeblog.com)