The writer of this piece requested anonymity
Every year it strikes me like the adversarial windchill that accompanies it…harsh, painful and immobilizing if I decide to dwell too long in it. I refer to a state-of-being over which I was given no choice and no voice—a ‘divorced’ Christmas. This state began not with my own divorced reality, though that brings its own painful reflection, but with that of my parents. With a marriage success rate that has plummeted over the past decades, I am not alone. We are the children of broken, re-jigged, alternate families, doing the best we can – if we’re “good” kids.
Shouldn’t I be grateful? Absolutely. There is suffering all over which is far worse than (I pray) I will ever know. I am grateful that I don’t walk where others walk. I am grateful to have family to share the season with at all, and I observe parents who are now in happier marriages—a good and grace-filled thing. Still, there is grief for many of us, the kids of divorce, that goes unacknowledged. We juggle multiple households, multiple interests, multiple dynamics and agendas and family issues, multiple budgets for multiple gifts, parents, step-parents, siblings, step-siblings, nieces, nephews, step-nieces, step-nephews, extended family and step-extended family (how DOES one introduce them all?)
We have a deep longing to “keep the family together” as much as possible despite the circumstances, maybe even more than people whose families are intact. We know what has been lost and we feel it keenly as we go through the various seasons of life, and we don’t want to ruin anything further. If we admit to ourselves how frustrated or even despairing we feel with it all, we dare not say a word for fear of making our family dynamic even more stressful, or hurting our parents.
The Christmas season highlights pain and loss more than any other time of year, and not just the pain and loss of divorce. “Norman Rockwell” images are all over holiday marketing. Among other sweet-tasting, glittery and warm things, Christmas is for family, isn’t it? We strive to get as close to ideal as we can, and no one wants to be a “party-pooper” and talk about real pain! Not at Christmas! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there for so many people and for so many reasons.
Even I admit that I don’t care for anything ‘ugly’ at Christmas, because I WANT the sweet, the glittery and the warm…I want to soak in the season with as few complications as possible. Therefore, I’m not going to dwell here for long. But, I do, however briefly, want to give this a voice, and I will have my yearly cry. As much as I have a true and abiding love for my parents, I believe it’s appropriate to grieve or at least to acknowledge that it’s sad – I’m sad. I know, too, that my individual grief is enfolded in a much larger community of brokenness; one we all share to varying degrees of heartache for various periods of time. This brokenness can be healed by the Saviour whose birth we celebrate. Emmanuel—God with us—come to bear our griefs and our sorrows; to restore and heal us. In His light, there can be deep gratitude and joy at Christmas—even a ‘divorced’ Christmas.