Often holiday traditions are consistent and ingrained in family celebrations, and you really don't think much about them until you become an Adult Child of Divorce. There is an expected and anticipated element of how the day will be designed and of what the holiday means to us individually and collectively. The routine behind the turkey being prepared with grandma's special dressing or the vision you have of the tree in the front yard decorated with plastic Easter eggs almost goes unnoticed until things change.
What really is a holiday? A time to take a break from work and responsibility to celebrate either a person's birth, or a day of religious or cultural importance. A holiday captures meaning in the significance of the specific day , but it also symbolizes a shared consistency and connectedness that is celebrated among family members amidst a life of change and difficulty. It brings us back to the past and makes us remember.
When a divorce occurs, that sense of consistency and connectedness is threatened. What is supposed to help us deal with the reality of change and difficulty in life , instead adds to it. I remember our first holiday as a family after my father left, was an effort of trying to hold onto the traditions of the past that we all had learned to rely upon for comfort in an uncertain world. But now, the presence of change , difficulty and uncertainty invaded the very thing that used to give us the security of living in a connected manner. There was no ignoring the sadness on the grandchildren's faces. Although we attempted to keep things as normal as possible, nothing was normal about the adults leaving the room to go shed some tears or take a deep breath at times. The traditions and security that was tied to our parents and grandparents as a unit could still be observed, but the deeper meaning of togetherness would always be different.
Holidays help us remember. They serve as reminders and link the past to the present. Holidays give us consistency and connectedness and that is deeper than the special ornaments on the tree that everyone remembers or the funny way grandma sings the happy birthday song.
Grieving and moving on at holidays for the Adult Child of Divorce is similar to how a person who has lost a loved one to death may grieve at a holiday. The extra knowledge that one person is gone due to a choice adds to the feelings of loss. So how does an ACOD respond to the holidays?
1. Accept the devastation. Something that was together is now separated and some things will never be again.
2. Sort through your memories. Some memories are still very good and remind us of the love we did once share. Learn to cherish those thoughts. Don't forget the ways you came together amidst the challenges of life. That is still an important thing to do.
3. Move forward by keeping some traditions and also embracing the making of some new ones as well. We do need to accept change and work with it. It isn't always an enemy and fresh ways of being connected and celebrating togetherness can help us heal.
4. Like a death, do not be afraid to talk about the way things were. Speaking of "before the divorce" is difficult to do at first, but if we allow ourselves and others to talk openly of good memories we hold of those days, it will serve to reinforce the ties that still exist among us.
As Adult Children of Divorce move ahead in healing, the great need for consistency and connectedness can continue to be strengthened in new ways as we celebrate the holidays of life.
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PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE HOW YOU DEAL WITH THE CHANGE IN HOLIDAYS NOW THAT YOU ARE AN ADULT CHILD OF DIVORCE.