Surviving the Holidays Post-Heartbreak

Excerpted from Mending Broken Hearts: Meditations for Finding Peace and Hope after Heartbreak


One woman wrote to her friends after the terrible wrenching away of her husband of 30 years, "The holidays were as good as can be expected under the circumstances." Perhaps that is our goal the first year -- that our holidays are "as good as can be expected," with the hope of better ones to come.

It doesn't matter what holiday. Memories of good times and cherished traditions will play in our heads every July 4, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day (maybe not a paid holiday, but your holiday), and Memorial Day. Holidays mark the passage of time. This first year is the hardest, and we are all well advised to gratefully accept all invitations and busy ourselves visiting friends and relatives.

Holidays also present opportunities for new traditions. My first year alone I tried to duplicate Christmas dinners past with a sit-down meal for a dozen, including appetizer; turkey in full regalia; cherry, pumpkin, and apple pies; and eight cookie varieties for evening snack. This on top of tree, stockings, and gifts, all purchased and decorated myself. My two sons departed for their father's that Christmas evening, and I crawled into bed and slept until 4pm the next day. The following year my 8- and my 10-year-old sat down with me, and together we planned what was most important. They declared the turkey a must but sacrificed pies to ice cream sundaes. By the time the boys were teenagers, Christmas had evolved into an "eat your favorite food" meal, which meant -- for one fateful year -- pizza. The tradition of serving what we most wanted stuck, and we laughed each December over the ludicrous feast we'd had the year before.

Many holiday traditions are worth holding onto whether or not a special person sits next to us. Holidays that celebrate our sacred heritage nourish our souls, though tears may stream down our faces while candles are lit in the temple. Special days that remember our forebears who served and died in past wars honor our family ties. Avoiding these ceremonies out of fear of our emotional response denies us an opportunity for healing. Ceremonies remain constant, like the Thanksgiving turkey, because they reaffirm that life is continuous and ultimately good, no matter how our present situation seems.

Holidays are complicated when children are shuttled from one turkey to another and expected to not only consume but also enjoy both until their stomachs burst. We need to be cognizant that even though they may now receive double gifts, they are still hurting and our needs must be balanced with theirs. It is possible to celebrate a holiday the day before or the day after so that our children's lives are not fractured.

Time passes. Holidays come and go, and though it may seem impossible now, each gets easier with time.

Today I celebrate holidays with friends and family. I acknowledge past traditions and celebrate new ones.

Mending Broken Hearts Copyright © 1999 by Adele Wilcox. Reprinted with permission of The Berkley Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

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