I remember a few years ago reading a piece by a woman who was apprehensive about turning 30. It was sent to me by a number of other female friends. Most sent me the link along with comments such as,
So this is just a message to all of my regular readers. I don’t intend on trying to get this published anywhere else but on this blog. The holidays were never a gray area for me growing up. My family had its issues, as every family has problems, but Christmas was always a joyous time filled with great memories. From year to year I can never recall what I did for my birthday, or how I spent New Year‘s eve. Since I work in special events I consider it bad luck if I am not working on nearly every other holiday, but Christmas is something else entirely, I can tell you exactly where I celebrated it, what I gave and got for presents and what I ate.
I didn’t really understand holiday melancholy until I got divorced. The first Thanksgiving after I left my husband I tried to keep to the same routine. A couple that had invited us year after year decided to ask me up and Joel spent the day at the Big Apple circus. Despite everyone’s best intentions in trying to keep my spirits up I felt like a living ghost. No one knew what to say to me, so I would get looks of pity and little else. The hostess tried valiantly to connect with me and try to cheer me up and I will never forget her kind gesture, but to everyone else it was if I wasn’t there. Conversations would swirl around me and I would pick up phrases here or there but my mind kept drifting to a black void of numbness. I couldn’t focus for anything but that I had sat in the same room with the same people year after year only this time my husband wasn’t with me. In the middle of the evening I snuck upstairs to call my brother. I needed a lifeline out of these frozen memories of past good times. I just desperately wanted my old life back, even if it was a life based on lies more than anything else. The host took a photo of everyone around the table and my spirit was so crushed at the time, I actually look gray. It almost looks like I was photo-shopped into the picture, everyone is smiling and then this odd depressed woman in the corner.
That Christmas I went home to Missouri and stayed with my sister. I was financially ruined, brokenhearted and alone. I had no hope that anything was going to get better. What had happened to my life? What was going to become of me? On top of the disaster of my divorce, I had just broken off the relationship that I now call the supernova. It was a rebound relationship that nearly destroyed me. I was at the lowest point in my life that I had ever been. About a month after that Christmas celebration I got into therapy and on antidepressants as I had become out of control and suicidal.
It is now two years later and I feel like a totally different person, but the residual effects still linger. This year a few days before Thanksgiving I felt dark clouds hovering over me, I had to beat them back with constant reminders of how far I had come and all the good things and people in my life. The best change is that now, I am no longer dependent on another human being or a marriage for my happiness.
If you are going through a rough time and you stumbled on this blog. It does get better. Maybe not in the way you think it will, and it may take a long time for it to happen. Try as much as you can to surround yourself with people who support and love you, and there are always people who support and love you no matter what you may think now. Life is just a roller coaster and some of us have to stay near the bottom for a long time before it swings back up, and you may never know what direction that upswing will take you. If you need professional help with your depression, get the help you need by any means necessary. The mental illness of depression really can become bigger than you, positive thinking is not going to make it magically float away. You may need an objective third-party to help you pull yourself up. Try to avoid anyone who is not taking your situation seriously or making light of it, they probably mean well but they can do more harm than good. I know when I was drowning in depression having someone flippantly say
“Other people have bigger problems than you do”
“Go out and get over it”
“You should just get wasted and forget about it”
Comments like these were like pouring salt on my wound. A major loss takes time, and you should instead surround yourself with people who have genuine sympathy for your situation. Fellow divorced people, or friends who have experienced a similar loss such as a death are the best people to find for support. A friend who has been through the same thing will understand you better than anyone.
And if you know someone going through a rough time, sit down with them and just listen. You don’t have to fix their problems, but sometimes just being a person to hear their pain and their story is more important than anything else. Try to give them the patience they need, as a person in crisis is bound to be a needy emotional mess. Give them room and allow them their time to grieve. There are no magic bullets or overnight successes when dealing with loss. And remember more than anything, before you know it the holidays will be over and everyone will go back to life as usual.
- How to survive the Holiday Season if you are Newly Divorced (julietjeske.wordpress.com)
- Dealing with Depression: Divorce and the Holiday Season (Video) (drangelaspeakstowomen.com)
- How to survive the death of father and a divorce? (ask.metafilter.com)
- Depression and Divorce (sincemydivorce.com)
- Jennifer Ball: I’m A Divorced Mom, And I’m Taking Christmas Back, Dammit (huffingtonpost.com)
- How To Cope With Spending Christmas Alone After Divorce (sincemydivorce.com)