Celebrating Your First Christmas Alone... Again
Being single in the holidays can be hard for many people. This can be especially difficult for those that have just suffered a loss, a divorce, or have children that are away with their ex-spouse. I know this scenario full well. The traditions that you created over the years have to be tossed out or re-adapted. Your home feels emptier and the loss feels greater particularly on Christmas day.
My story was one that included a painful divorce and the sharing of three young children. I found that my holiday festivities were now split with my ex. And so was our Christmas day. That first Christmas alone was the worst and seemed to punch me right in the gut. I was desperately trying to find ways to make it feel “normal” and “whole” for my children and I. But the reality was… nothing was normal. Loss and divorce are some of the hardest things a human can face. And grieving through the holidays can bring the pain level up to a new degree.
Here is what I discovered while celebrating my first Christmas alone:
1. You’re actually not alone. Yes, you may feel alone and the house might be empty. But God promises to never leave us nor forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6) He wants to show up as our Comforter, Father, and Friend. Ask Him to be with you in those lonely, scary moments. He will be faithful. He always is. I was amazed at how quickly He would come and wrap His arms around me when I felt the loneliest. I discovered a whole new, sweet side of His presence during my divorce process. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
2. Your community and family want to support you. Let them. You don’t have to pretend that you are fine. Be real with yourself and with them. When you can be vulnerable with your community it creates a space for them to empathize and support you. God designed for us to live in community and lean on each other. This leads me to my next point…
3. Try not to isolate. It’s easy to believe the lie that no one will understand or that you will be a burden to the people around you. Stay in connection with the outside world. Call up your friends and family and invite yourself over. Seriously. This is where it helps to be vulnerable and let them know that you just need to be around people. My community totally understood this when I reached for them. In fact, they were pleased that I reached out because they wanted to be there for me. You will probably discover the same thing.
4. Give yourself room to grieve. It’s a big temptation to numb your pain or distract yourself like crazy when you don’t want to face your reality. This is not a good solution and will not help you heal. Numbing and distracting will only prolong your process. Your grief will sneak up on you when you are not expecting it. Only then it will be even more explosive and ugly because it’s been a festering wound. One of the biggest tools I learned was to be intentional with my grieving. Intentionality looked like “making room for it” when it washed over me. Instead of changing that love song that reminded me of my ex, I focused on it and felt everything I needed to feel. I gave my heart permission to revisit those feelings. Instead of pushing away the memories when they hit me unexpectedly - I sat down, closed my eyes, and went down that memory lane. Remembering everything that I could about it. What I discovered, was that if I took the time to sit in that moment and feel everything attached to the memory - it hurt a lot less the next time it popped up.
5. Remember that this too shall pass. I know that sounds so cliché and probably the last thing you want to hear. But it’s the truth. This may be the hardest season you ever have to walk through, and it might feel like the end is nowhere in sight. But I promise you - it won’t last forever. Next Christmas will be a little bit easier and the following one, even more so. You will create new “normals” and new traditions. Your heart will be even more healed and whole.
Finally, I would encourage you to ask God what He has in store for you this next year. You might be surprised at what hopeful and wonderful plans He has. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
I pray that you feel God’s tangible presence this Christmas season. That He meets you in ways that you’ve never experienced. That your community reaches out and brings you closer in healthy and supportive ways. I pray for bravery for you to stay connected to the outside world and not isolate in your pain. And bravery for you to be vulnerable and real with yourself and the people around you. More than anything, I pray for grace for you to grieve whole-heartedly. For you to find the time and the space to sit with Papa God and feel everything you need to feel. Don’t be afraid to cry and scream. God can handle it and it’s good for your soul. Remember - He wants to be your Comforter.