I recently ran into a friend who confided in me his grief over a friend’s disintegrating marriage. My friend has been married for decades, but even though divorce in the United States occurs in roughly half of all marriages, I was struck by how shocked and sad he was when faced with the reality of a break-up happening to someone he knows.
If, like my friend, you know someone who is facing the break-up of their marriage as we head into the holidays, you ought to be aware that holidays are going to be a particularly painful season for them. Your friend is very likely dreading the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas, both holidays that emphasize familial togetherness.
Holidays are not special to us because each year is new and unique. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; family traditions are built around the annual opportunity to return to the old and familiar.
Just today, one of my adult daughters asked if we were going to put the Christmas tree up over Thanksgiving weekend again, and if we would once again be ordering pizza. Of course we will! God willing, this year’s Thanksgiving weekend will look much the same way it has for over a decade, right down to the hot chocolate and listening to the soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Both of these have become annual family traditions, the pleasing, agreed-upon “rhythm of life” as we welcome in the Christmas season.
There is comfort, security and a sense of belonging that come out of the traditions we create within our families, and the absence of any of those familiar rhythms make it feel like it’s “not quite right” somehow. The loss or change of even one tradition can create a hiccup in our sense that this year’s holiday was “all it could be.”
Imagine, then, when your family is torn in two.
Not only are you now facing the loss of decorating the tree with your kids, as you always have, but the majority of those familiar experiences that historically made the holidays special for you are gone, too. The holidays aren’t simply less joyful; they have morphed tragically into something deeply, deeply painful, and there’s simply no avoiding them. In our culture, certainly, it’s not as if you can just ignore Christmas and pretend it isn’t coming.
The reality is that divorce means that nearly all of our life rhythms have been significantly changed – often against our will – and this instability can’t help but impact how the holidays are celebrated. It’s helpful to know, however, that there is a way through this tough season that will provide opportunities to enjoy the holidays and deal with the unwanted changes in a healthy manner.
Steering clear of sliding into holiday-season depression is the focus of Surviving the Holidays, a program The Crossing has offered for the last seven years. For those going through separation and divorce – particularly those facing the holidays for the first time with this new paradigm of loss and sorrow – this brief seminar can offer practical suggestions for how to make it through the holidays…perhaps even enjoy them!
The Crossing is once again hosting Surviving the Holidays this Saturday, November 19, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. We ask all participants to register for this event so that we can prepare brunch for the right number of people; please sign up online at The Crossing’s Featured Events page.
Perhaps as you read this post you, like my friend, may know of other people whose marriages are coming to an end. Maybe their pain feels closer and more real to you than you’ve experienced. If so, I urge you to forward this information to them (along with a personal note of encouragement) and invite them to join us this weekend. Offer them hope and healing in the face of a devastating loss, starting with Surviving the Holidays.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.