Holidays tend to bring out more emotions and feelings than we anticipate.
I remember my first Thanksgiving as a separated, (almost divorced) single parent. I was sad, relieved and feeling uncertain about many things, all at the same time. My children were 2-years-old and 5-years-old. We spent it with my mother and other family members. For me, it was about getting through it and trying to enjoy it, at least a little.
Single parents generally become single parents through breakup/divorce or the death of their spouse. None of those things make the holidays any easier. If this is your first Thanksgiving as a single parent, take heart. There are definitely some things you can to do take care of yourself and your family for the holiday:
Avoidance seems to show up at holiday time. For many single parents, the thought of planning or looking ahead to the holidays seems so painful, but you must! Don’t wait until the last minute to make arrangements for yourself, whether or not your children are with you for the holidays.
Plan, plan and plan
If you haven’t made plans for the holidays, sit down now, and make a list of each day. If your children are with the other parents for the holidays, it is even more important to plan. Why? Otherwise, you’ll find yourself feeling isolated and depressed. DO NOT succumb to being a martyr, no matter how tempting that may be. Find ways to enjoy your holidays regardless of the circumstances.
Realize that feelings may crop up
Be gentle with yourself when they do. Just see those feelings for what they are: you feeling the past (pain, frustration, sadness) with the present and future. Why exactly does that happen? It’s actually part of the grief cycle.
We tend to think of the grief process as linear. First, Denial, then Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, and for many, one more, Hope. Grief is actually cyclical. You might feel a lot of anger and then be fine for several hours, days or minutes. Then, suddenly, you may feel sad and depressed. Then better again. That is how grief happens, a piece at a time over time.
When you slide back into the grief process, you go to the stage you need to work through, and then back to feeling okay. Don’t be surprised by your feelings and prepare for them. Understanding what is happening with your emotions can help you to honor yourself as opposed to being too hard on yourself.
Start a tradition
A few years ago, we started this tradition in my home. We cut up lots of squares of colored paper, and we each write down one thing we are grateful for on each square. Everyone ends up with lots of squares. They include fun things, like toys, good food, or stuff we love, and serious stuff, like friends, God, and family.
After saying the blessing and eating, we sit around the table and put that big pile of colored paper squares in the middle. We go around the table and each person pulls out one square to read. Then we have fun trying to figure who wrote it. We go around the table many times reading from the squares about all that we are grateful for. It is the sweetest moment!
Find your own tradition that you can share with your children, even if they aren’t with you on the actual holiday. It’s the little things that can make the holiday truly meaningful.
I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!