Once a couple separates and has a regular weekly schedule in place, most things do tend to fall into place, but I often have to warn people about the need to prepare for very conflicting feelings around the holidays, birthdays and vacations. When you do not have your children for holidays or birthdays, you need to make plans for yourself to avoid feeling too sad or lonely. It is very hard to have to plan your own birthday when you have not had to do so in years, not in terms of logistics, but rather in terms of emotions. Also, getting yourself holiday gifts, no matter how great they might be, simply will not compare to the thrill that someone else thought of you, what you might like, and went and bought you something as a token of his/her love.
When it comes to summers or other vacations, I always suggest that people try to coordinate trips with family or friends. I have to admit, however, that even when I have done this, I still have moments of longing as I see other couples together with their kids enjoying time on the beach, or amusement parks, etc. Not being part of an intact family is hard– not just on the kids, but their parents as well. Many want to appear strong (especially men), and they won’t really talk about these feelings with their family or friends, but being a single parent is not easy, and it is not only okay to ask for help, it is a necessity.
Having a core support group in life is critical, but especially for those recently separated or divorced, having a lifeline to help you get through special events and holidays will be key. Trying to do it all alone is not only exhausting, it simply is not healthy– we need to let others into our lives to share in our joys and help with the sorrow , especially during special occassions when both feelings will be prevalent at the same time. In the end, all I can say to people is that this is normal, it is part of the process of getting divorced, and hopefully this too shall pass.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.