Her kids are 500 miles away. The mandatory waiting period for her state to finalize her divorce will end in 2015. This is her first Christmas where everything’s broken.
“It’s amazing what you can get used to,” I said.
From now on our troubles will be out of sight.
I waxed philosophically about how in the grand scheme of our lives this really doesn’t matter and everything’s going to be okay and don’t let your emotions ruin an otherwise beautiful occasion. She gets me and claimed it helped.
But I bet it didn’t. I bet it didn’t help at all.
I was in the store earlier. So much life. Everyone moving this way and that buying drinks and snacks and last-minute ingredients for Christmas parties and dinners with friends and family.
That’s when you feel the most alone after divorce.
That’s why divorced people don’t enjoy the holidays as much as they used to. That’s when it can still hurt.
I was trying to make her feel better, but maybe I was being a bad friend by not acknowledging how perfectly normal it is to feel loss during the holidays, especially when your two young children are so far away.
You see a pretty girl with a guy. What’s he have that I don’t?, you wonder. And you feel more alone.
You see a child with his mom or dad. I wonder what my son’s doing now. And you feel more alone.
You see an old couple. The patriarch and matriarch of a large family and you know you can never be that. And you feel more alone.
Because I’m semi-smart, I know I won’t feel bad about it next month, or even next week. I know that it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of my life. But right in that moment, there’s hurt.
And maybe it’s okay to acknowledge it and not pretend to be tougher than we are. Maybe it’s okay to just own it even though I’ve been trying not to, wanting to believe I’m impervious to pain from something I’ve “gotten over.”
We sat there, the three of us. Father, mother, son. Like Christmas magic.
Our six-year-old opened a bunch of presents. Around the tree, in a room, in a house, all that used to be ours but is no more.
Other than that child, there is no “ours.”
But then it was time for them to go. I held him tight. His life, my gift.
And then a “see you later, dad.”
And then a wave from the car window.
And then driving away.
And then a tear.
And then a deep breath.
What am I more sad about?, I wondered. That I can’t be with the person I love most? Or because I was feeling sorry for myself and I’m a little too good at that sometimes. Another Christmas alone. How many more might there be?
I know so many people recovering from, or going through, a divorce. Everything changes.
But everything always changes.
And maybe I just need to keep my mouth shut when my friends are hurting and let them hurt because I can’t fix anything because I can’t even fix myself.
I think maybe it’s okay to hurt because that’s what’s true and real right now, but it won’t always be. Maybe the only way to get to the place where it never hurts is to acknowledge it and not pretend it isn’t happening. Because it is happening. And next year? Everything will change again.
From now on our troubles will be miles away.
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem: I’m struggling today.
But maybe not tomorrow.
Everything’s going to be okay. I know it.
Wishing you and yours a very happy and blessed Christmas and holiday season.