This year, Thanksgiving and Christmas may be extremely painful for those that recently have experienced loss or heartbreak. The Holidays can be a wonderful time–but they can also be great reminders of pain. My hope is that this article will be like a comforting cup of hot chocolate on a cold day for those that feel alone this holiday season.
It was snowing.
We were holding hands and walking together in the cold. It was the day we would find out where he would begin work as a Pediatrician. They had a term for it, all the med students–“Match Day.” I still remember that day like it was yesterday. I was sitting there anxiously awaiting the news that would change my life forever. News that would determine where a newly married couple would raise their children and build their home. I had just left all my friends and family to move to the East Coast, so that I could start a life with a broke medical student whom I was madly in love with. I just wanted to know where home was.
Ugh, another memory again. I was laying in bed, trying to get this memory out of my head. Why do they keep appearing? I thought.
And then it clicked–Thanksgiving is almost here. Thanksgiving has a lot more meaning to me than it used to. It’s meaningful because I can celebrate it with joy and truly find so many things to be thankful for despite what happened two years ago. I’m a very different person than I use to be, but it doesn’t mean I will ever forget.
TWO YEARS AGO, I had the most painful Thanksgiving I have ever lived through. In November 2015, my husband who had been committing adultery, told me our marriage was just a piece of paper. I begged him to change his mind about getting a divorce, but found myself making a bitter 5 day journey from the East Coast back to Las Vegas.
My marriage fell apart right in time for Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s. I could hardly keep myself together without crying, breaking down, and wishing my life was not real. And now, Thanksgiving was here and my family was wanting to celebrate. Celebrate what? There’s nothing to be thankful for. I had nothing that I could think of that hadn’t already gone wrong in my life. Yet, I had to figure out some way to get through the holidays without crying. Every time I heard a Christmas song, I wished it would stop playing. I couldn’t possibly sing along or agree with any of the words in the music that was playing festively in shops, restaurants, malls, and just about every public place.
On Christmas Day, I found myself in a McDonald’s parking lot crying with mascara running down my cheeks. Christmas. My first Christmas alone. My first Christmas not singing any Christmas songs. My first Christmas where opening presents hurt. My first Christmas where I wanted to disappear more than anyone else in the world, where I couldn’t see God. Where I couldn’t make any sense of my life. As cold as it was outside, my heart felt even colder. To be honest, I barely remember New Year’s Day, I don’t think I even cared.
IT DOES GET BETTER. This year, I know Thanksgiving & Christmas are going to be a great. Why? Because I have lots to be thankful about. I’m thankful that I no longer see myself as an unloved woman. I look in the mirror and I see a warrior who fought to live when she felt hopeless. I no longer have a broken heart, I’ve become a stronger individual, and I’ve truly learned to love the woman I see in the mirror. I’m also thankful I made it through some of the most difficult times–which is why I decided to write about it today. To read about my journey of healing from divorce click here.
ARE YOU FACING HEARTBREAK THIS HOLIDAY SEASON? HERE’S HOW TO GET THROUGH IT ALIVE
- Don’t feel like you have to listen to Christmas music, buy people gifts, or eat Turkey. Do you know that God understands your emotions? In fact, he created them. It is NORMAL to grieve during heartbreak. If you can’t listen to Christmas music, don’t. If you can’t seem to decorate your house with lights, don’t. Don’t feel like you have to suddenly force yourself out of grief just because there is a holiday on the calendar. THERE IS ALWAYS NEXT YEAR. Remember that.
- It’s OK to be struggling. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed of your grief. Part of loving yourself is being able to recognize when you have needs and letting others know how they can help. Let them know you are struggling with the Holidays. Though they may not know what to say (a lot of mine did not), maybe you can just let them know that listening to you and hearing you out is enough.
- Grab coffee with a safe friend or call somebody. Make sure you don’t isolate yourself. Isolation can lead to unsafe thoughts. In my case, it led to suicidal thoughts and insomnia. You DO NOT have to go to a Christmas party or celebrate anything. BUT YOU DO have to make sure you keep communicating with someone who is safe and will steer you in the right direction. Perhaps, you could go to a friend’s house the day before Christmas and just eat dinner with them or grab coffee with a friend. You don’t have to do anything on the day of Christmas or Thanksgiving itself, but just make sure you are not locking yourself in a room waiting for time to pass by. If you aren’t going to spend the holidays with anyone–it can feel particularly lonely that day. So make sure you call somebody if you aren’t going to be with anyone.
- Draw boundaries with friends that say hurtful or inappropriate things. During the holidays, I had a friend say something that was extremely hurtful when I needed comfort. I made the decision to stop confiding in this particular friend after realizing that I would only get hurt if I continued to confide in this person. I also let that person know how they made me feel. Make sure you let them know your heart comes first–and it’s ok to refuse advice from people who you think are hurting more than helping. If your friend needs a perspective on what to say and what not to say while you are hurting, have them read this article I wrote by clicking here.
- Try to think of Thanksgiving and Christmas as a normal day. I know that is going to be HARD. But, if you keep thinking about how every Christmas and Thanksgiving used to be the “Most Wonderful” time of the year, it will make things worse. Try to keep yourself busy with something, treat yourself to a good meal, and again–if you need to cry–it’s alright.
- Talk to a professional counselor. Something I wish happened sooner was getting counseling. I ended up getting counseling after the Holidays, and it made me feel SO NORMAL! In fact, I wished someone would have been able to tell me everything I was feeling was normal during the Holidays. It would have changed everything for me.
- Take advantage of Black Friday! If at all possible, try to go shopping and have a bit of fun.
- Make a list of new things you want to try during November & December. Maybe go Rock Climbing, try a new restaurant out, try a new hobby, try a new hairdo! Just make sure you keep loving yourself and being YOU.
- Remember that Thanksgiving and Christmas are just DAYS on a calendar and you WILL have better days! I can’t say how long your process will be, but I can tell you that last year my holidays were a lot better.
And lastly, remember that Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about love. It’s not all about Turkey, lights, presents–it’s about the fact that once upon a time, God loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus to die for us. Jesus died so that our broken and destitute hearts could have HOPE. You may feel alone this season, but I ASSURE you–God is not far from you. In fact, it says the Lord is close to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18).
I pray that as you read this, you will feel comforted and know that I too, have once walked in your shoes. I know what it is like to feel out of place during this season–and you must believe that you will have better days and better years.
You may not be able to celebrate anything this year, but I want to let you know there is HOPE beyond what you feel today. You will thrive again one day, and your heart WILL heal. God can heal the most broken of hearts–if you let him. You’ll be surprised at how resilient the heart truly is.
How do I know? I’m proof.
-Jensine, Writer for the Healed Heart.