Dreading the holidays because you’re single?
No worries – you are in good company. Many unattached men and women feel the same way, dreading the awkward questions and insensitive comments from relatives at family gatherings.
In the years after my divorce, I had many difficult Christmases. But one year in particular, I decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of the way each holiday went, so I resolved to change something about myself – the only aspect of the holidays I really could control – in an effort to make the holidays a kinder, gentler experience. I would like to share those with you now.
I spent a lot of time during Advent reflecting on the Holy Family, trying to glean something new from the story I had heard for so many years of my life. I tried to imagine being present and seeing the scene exactly as it played out. I imagined Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem and were shut out in a cold stable to deliver their newborn child.
I imagined 15-year-old Mary, who was nine months pregnant and probably more uncomfortable than she’d ever been in her life, riding a donkey in the middle of the night. Hmm…good times. I was thoroughly impressed by her sacrifice.
I observed the obedience of Joseph, who had nearly divorced his pregnant wife and even then still didn’t quite understand why things were happening to him the way they were, but he trusted and obeyed God. His simplicity deeply affected me.
Then I contemplated Christ as a newborn in the manger. I pictured the baby Jesus and looked at His little hands, knowing they would be pierced and torn one day… for me. I looked at His little newborn body and thought of the sword that would one day pierce His side, showering blood and water for my salvation.
During this time of reflection, God’s grace was somehow softening my hardened and bitter heart, replacing the anger I felt toward my ex-spouse with a tiny seed of forgiveness. As that seed began to sprout and take root, it was almost like having scales fall off my eyes and experiencing a whole new existence.
That Christmas during Mass as I received Jesus in Holy Communion, my heart was filled with His love. It didn’t change my circumstances, but it changed me. Despite all I had been through, I began to experience peace in my heart and hope for good things in my future.
Then I resolved to prepare for the holidays by taking two steps.
1. Understanding the root of awkward or insensitive comments.
Pain and loneliness make people uncomfortable. If you’re lonely or suffering, your friend or family member feels uncomfortable and awkward. They don’t want to see you in pain; they want you to be happy and celebrate.
They want to do something to help, to fix the pain. They want to stop it now, but they can’t. I realized that a lot of those stinging comments were simply my relatives’ attempts at trying to help – trying to fix my problems, trying to stop my pain.
And that was OK. It was much easier then to let the comments just roll off my back.
2. Being prepared for the downtime.
I made a list of all the things I said I didn’t have time for and when the celebrations were over but the time off was long, I began doing the things on the list and spent my time proactively. I cleaned out closets, read a book my mother had sent me, purged files, etc.
It wasn’t glamorous, but it certainly kept me busy and away from the pity-party attitude. By the time I went back to work, I had the most organized home in Connecticut.
This Christmas may be difficult for you, and I’m truly sorry if it is. But know that I am praying for you, in hopes that you will resolve to change the one thing about the holidays that you can – yourself.
Let go of any bitterness and anger you may be harboring to make room for the peace that Christ’s birth brings. Then go forth to your family celebrations with peace and experience the true joy of Christmas. Just like the little children whom Christ tells us we must be like in order to go to heaven: believe, forgive, hope.
Learn Lisa Duffy’s five ways to survive your first Christmas after divorce.