Holidays and Divorce: Will I ever enjoy them again?

It is Easter Sunday morning and my heart is full of sadness. I didn’t expect Easter to be hard. After all, I trudged through my 40th birthday, our 10 year anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentines Day alone, what is one more day? I was wrong, it is just as hard as it was the first special event that I faced alone. To explain my feelings to you: I feel empty, lonely, sad, isolated and ALONE! More than anything, I feel forgotten, not worth fighting for and I wonder if anything I ever did in my last 40 years meant a thing to anyone. To add more depth to that statement, I am not suicidal: I am pouty and feeling more than a little sorry for myself.

As a kid, all of my holidays were spent with family. Though my parents divorced when I was 5, my Grandparents (maternal and paternal) more than adequately filled the void that a child may feel living in a one parent home. My mother was not a “holiday” person, for as long as I remember she was Bah Humbug about everything. My Grandmother’s (plural) were of a different sort. Holidays meant pre holiday evenings spent in the kitchen, making all the men and grandchildren favorite recipes: the day of the holiday was filled with food, laughter and family love. My Grandmothers birthday was 5 days after mine, every year, our family would gather at my Grandmothers house and have a huge birthday pig picking, Thanksgiving was the same, Christmas meant going to both sets of Grandparents and enjoying different traditions with each. My maternal Grandmother made a nummy nummy sweet potato pie and my paternal grandmother would can cinnamon pickles. The memories of my childhood holidays are filled with warmth, love and laughter. As I began to grow into womanhood, I knew in my heart, this was the feeling and memories that I wanted to share with my husband and children. In my first marriage, my MIL was a traditional woman who spent every holiday in the kitchen. I was elated the first Christmas she invited me into her kitchen to help her cook. A tradition was began and every holiday after I could be found with my apron on and my hip bone permanently planted in front of her stove. Age set in, illness and time passed and eventually I took the traditions into my home. As my kids grew, I would be that excited Mom, looking forward to placing flour paw prints on our floor Easter morning, placing baskets filled with their favorites at their door and smelling the aroma of ham, green bean casserole and fresh-baked bread fill our home. After the excitement of all the Easter candy, we would make our way to church in our little pastel outfits, to return home and devour our meal. Easter afternoon was spent in the recliner, on the couch or in the bed, napping off all those carbs, but there was not a person in my home who was not wearing a smile.

Once the first husband and I divorced I refused to give up my traditions. My kids were still young and holidays were still celebrated in our home, just without the presence of a male role. My second husband and I met and I remember the excitement in showing him my cooking skills our first Thanksgiving together. He loved the way I cherished the holidays and I would see excitement on his face every year too. As my kids grew older, found a life of their own and were sometimes not present at our holiday luncheons, I stood my ground and still refused to give them up. I remember it only being my husband, daughter and myself for a few holidays in the most recent years. Though my heart hurt looking at the empty seats at my dining table, I was mature enough to accept life goes on and children grow, and I was proud that the hubby and I had not forgotten or gave up on our traditions.

This last year has been so different.

The first special day was our 10 year anniversary in August. I did not get out of bed all day and I never stopped crying for 2 days. My 40th birthday was lots of fun and filled with great friends but there was that emptiness of not having that special someone by my side, celebrating my life. Thanksgiving and Christmas were horrid. In divorce, the public has a common misconception: they believe divorce is an option (whether you were for it or not) and they tend to not realize the emptiness and loneliness that divorce leaves on a soul. In my circumstance, once the holidays were over, I received many phone calls asking about my holidays. Once they discovered I was alone all day, each day, they gave a heart-felt apology and the common statement “Oh, I just assumed you’d be with your family for the holidays or I would have asked you over!” was offered. What they fail to realize, I lost my entire family in one short year. My two sons are 22 and 21 and both left for Air Force Basic Training in Jan and May respectively. My youngest son is in GA, 9 hours away and though my oldest son is based here in NC, the military rotates holidays. That are not going to always have holidays off and even if they do, they may not have the time available to make it home. My daughter moved out in November, is enjoying her life as an 18-year-old and honestly has no interest in holidays with mom. Need I remind anyone, in 21 short days, I will be officially divorced.

Christmas 2011 was filled with the sounds of my three children running down the stairs in anticipation of what was under the tree, the smells of turkey and gravy simmering in the oven, the sight of ripped Christmas paper all over the living room, my husband spread out on the couch snoring and the overwhelming amount of dirty dishes in the sink. That was the last holiday we were together and I am beginning to believe, it will be the last holiday I ever really want to remember.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and now Easter: there are no sounds of children in my condo, there is no smell of ham or turkey wafting through my home: there are no colored eggs, purple peeps, or chocolate bunnies in sight. I woke this morning, wanting to attend the sunrise service, but simply could not muster the energy to drive there alone, sing alone and celebrate alone. I knew it would only make me cry.

I joined a web based divorce support group that sends daily divorce care emails. In the email I receieved today, the topic was loneliness and isolation. The email encouraged you to force yourself out your front door, join in some public activity and fight your way through the loneliness. Honestly, I don’t have the strength. More than anything, I want to be driving to church in my easter green dress, hearing my kids whine about being up so early. I want to return home, rush to change, make sure all the food is warmed and the table set. I want to watch my sons tear into the ham like they are starving, fight my daughter for the last boiled egg and feel upset when everyone is too full to eat the dessert I spent two hours making.

My heart misses those days! I don’t think they will ever be the same!

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