The holiday “To Do” list is long, but one by one the items get crossed off:
Finish wrapping gifts
Write checks for tips
See divorce attorney
Every December I am amazed by the courage of those who consult with a divorce attorney in the same month they decorate Christmas cookies.
Holidays can be the most heart-connected time of year with loved ones. Aromas from the kitchen remind us of our own childhood and the “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament causes us to pause and reflect.
Holidays also hold expectations. That we will be with our family. That there will be giving and receiving. That a jolly good time will be had by all.
But not all holidays are happy ones. When a marriage is over, even when there has been no divorce, the season can be wrapped in tremendous sadness.
I remember the Christmas Eve when the view of the dull winter sky and dried cornfields matched my mood. The drive to the family dinner was long, sullen, and silent. We both put on a good face for the sake of the children. I did not yet realize it would be our last Christmas Eve as a family. The twinkling lights and shiny red giftwrap were not enough to brighten the gloom underneath it all.
One of the most difficult parts of divorce is letting go of the dream. The dream of the beautiful family on special days. Where love infuses every small conversation. Where rituals reinforce our enduring connection. Where we don’t feel alone or lonely. When the love has vanished, the rituals feel meaningless, and we feel alone and lonely even amidst the din of a holiday party.
I have grieved the loss of many dreams. Of having every Christmas with my children and their father. Of growing old with my late husband, John, whose sweet traditions included gifts like a goat for a family in Zanzibar and spiritual books, signed, “From God”.
Today I have new dreams in the middle of winter, and my home shows them fully alive. Ben and Jack arrive home in a few days—one from Brooklyn and one from San Francisco. My table is already set, the tree shimmers, stockings from their childhood hung, and my heart bursting with the mere thought of enjoying a precious few days of being a mother with her children near.
There is no good time to see a divorce lawyer. Most will want to live with the hope and dream for one more season, and pray they won’t be disappointed. Others will see that it is time to let go of the dream as they once envisioned it, and begin to create new ones.
For those who decide it is time to take the next step, I applaud their courage, and hope that the holidays ahead hold a fraction of the joy that I know mine will.