My kids were with their dad during the week of July 4th. I’d been dreading it since we made the arrangement months ago, but tried to peel myself put of the house and make the best of it. It didn’t work.
Instead, I stayed in my pajamas and sat on my sofa all day reading after doing some yard work.
Their texts came in throughout the week about all the adventures they were having — the jet skiing, the camping, the afternoon they had lobster and the night they ordered oodles of Chinese food, the itchy mystery rash, all the cousin time, the rides on four wheelers, the hours spent knee boarding, the sunburns, and all the fireworks they saw — and I looked forward to each one.
I can say I was so happy for them, and felt so lucky they were with their amazing father (who is definitely more fun than I am), and mean it with all my heart. It always makes us happy to see our kids happy creating lifelong memories under any circumstances.
But that’s only part of it.
I could say their happiness is all that matters, but I’d be withholding something: It tears me up each time they are without me, having a great time, especially on a holiday.
Knowing they are having so much fun and I am not there to witness it knocks the wind out of me. I realize this is my new normal and I have to get used to it since this is the way it will be for the rest of our lives — I won’t get to be with them for every holiday, birthday, or special occasion anymore.
On holidays it hits me so hard. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be when we were planning our family almost two decades ago.
We were supposed to be in this together, forever and always. Holidays are meant to be spent with your family, isn’t that what life is all about?
Even though it wasn’t one of the big holidays, it was still painful. And in order to soothe that pain, I needed a book and my pajamas. It was the only thing I could do to feel okay.
There are times when my kids are with their dad and I guard my heart by surrounding myself with family and friends and making lots of plans to ease the blow. But this time, I declined all invitations to go out and celebrate. I didn’t want to be driving down the road and see families walking hand in hand wearing red white and blue. I couldn’t bare the thought of parades and sparklers and splashing in the lake. Those are all the things we used to do and to see other families living it would have been too heavy for my soul.
So I did what was best for me. I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to wear my fake face and pretend. I wanted to feel everything I was feeling on my own in hopes it would being me some peace and healing.
And it did.
I know I can make new memories with my kids as a divorced mom, and I do. I’m aware we can have our own celebration even if it’s not on the actual holiday.
Reminding myself of this, and getting in a little nurturing me time, are all ways to help me, as a divorced mom, navigate my way through this new life. It can feel wonderful and new and refreshing.
But it doesn’t negate the fact being away from your kids on a holiday, no matter what that holiday is, is painful as hell.
You are allowed to grieve. Then move on and create something new, then fall back into a grieving pattern again.
Healing from your divorce is not lateral. You will slip; you will feel the devastation all over again; you will have good days that flow into bad days and you will wonder when you will get the hell over this.
The holidays have a way of stirring the pot and making all your divorce ghosts dance around in your head.
I’ve learned through my divorce that the best thing you can do is what feels right on that day.
If you want to go out and celebrate, you should.
If you need to be alone, honor that, knowing your loved ones will understand.
If you want to spend a shit ton of money shopping online, do it.
I’ve been in all those places, and it’s okay to have a holiday away from your kids and enjoy it. And it’s okay to hate it. It’s part of the journey, and as long as you do you and just get through it, everything will be fine.
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