You Can Help Alleviate Holiday-Themed Distress

I vividly recall one Christmas in the late 1990’s that really sucked. I’m sorry, I do realize that ESI is a church blog, but there’s really no other word for it; to this day, that particular year stands out in memory as the single-worst celebration of Christmas ever. It followed hard on the heels of my divorce, and I was miserable. There is something about setting up a Christmas tree by yourself in a dingy, low-rent apartment that brings home one of life’s harshest of realities.

Broken Christmas OrnamentLoneliness was the single biggest factor that made that first Christmas as a divorced man so very difficult; it might have been considerably more bearable had I at least been connected to a church and/or a friend had invited me over for hot chocolate and cookies later that afternoon. Something. Anything, really.

As many of us begin to prepare for the yearly craziness of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, I’d just like to have all of us with intact families pause for a moment and consider how the yearly holiday season can feel like a mean, four-hit sucker punch to those in our community who have recently separated and/or divorced. As you begin to pull out boxes and make changes to your home in preparation for the holidays, please stop just for a few seconds and try to imagine how going through this season would impact you emotionally if you did not have access to your home, your traditions and (most significantly) your children.

As one of the many experts in Surviving the Holidays points out, “We don’t treasure the holidays because of the differences in our lives. We treasure the holidays for the things that stay the same.” We develop traditions that become a part of our family life; in the wake of divorce, all of those holiday traditions feel warped or (more often) entirely broken. It’s a disorienting time for someone to be newly-single.

My wife and I have been partnering with various churches across Columbia for at least five years now to bring Surviving the Holidays to the Columbia area, and we really have found it to be a great resource for recently-separated men and women who are heading into a time of the year that provides multiple reminders of the ways in which their lives have been shattered. We both believe that this curriculum is valuable and provides great insight into “counter-programming” for the inevitable reminders of loss which wait around the corner.

If you know someone who is heading into the holiday season in the wake of a separation and/or divorce, you can take a few practical steps to help them cope and connect:

  1. Download this flier. Pass it on to someone you know via e-mail, or print it out and post it on a bulletin board in your office.
  2. Forward this blog to someone; encourage them to attend and/or offer to drive them to the event, maybe even get coffee together afterward.
  3. Offer to be a “resource” as friends go through what is likely the loneliest time of the season. Can you invite this person to your house later on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, for example? Even if it’s “just” to watch something on TV together?
  4. Don’t accept “No, really, I’m OK” as a first response to your invitations. Be persistent about letting a friend know you really care; set apart time to intentionally spend with your separated friends close to the actual holidays.
  5. Be creative; pray and ask God to show you ways to show those you know who are going through separation and divorce that they haven’t been forgotten; someone cares. Truly, if you “have been meaning to reach out” to a friend or loved one who is going through the gut-wrenching process of divorce, now is the best time to act. Help that person by getting some fun events on his or her holiday calendar.

Surviving the Holidays 2014

Saturday, Nov. 15, 10 a.m.
The Crossing, 3615 Southland Drive
Includes brunch.
Cost: $10. Scholarships available.
Childcare available through 5th grade.
Register online at
http://thecrossingchurch.com/events/
or e-mail divorce.redemption@gmail.com

Saturday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m.
Parkade Baptist, 2102 N. Garth
Light meal will be provided.
Cost: $10. Scholarships available.
Childcare provided for children under age 5.
Separate session for kids ages 5-12.
Register by calling (573) 443-4585 or at:
www.ParkadeBaptistChurch.org/SurvivingTheHolidays

2 Corinthians 1:3-7: “God Offers Comfort to All” (NLT)
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

We ought not weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of The Presence of God

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