December 13, 2019

My First Christmas Alone and How I Got Through It

by Janet Tingwald in Relationship

I know there are those of you going through a divorce, have lost a loved one, or have ended a long relationship and are spending their first Christmas without that partner.

Although being single during the holidays can be difficult or lonely, I don’t know if it’s ever as hard as the first one. I decided to share with you my experience of my first Christmas alone and how I got through it.

Sixteen years ago, I came home from a trip for coaches training that I had attended, and my husband told me he couldn’t do it anymore and wanted a divorce.

It was two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Although I knew this was where we were headed, and I knew it needed to happen, I was unprepared for him to say those words.

I was able to go to his family’s Thanksgiving gathering and have a normal holiday. However, a month later, for Christmas, I was not in the same place. The reality of my future had become all too real. I had was invited to his family’s Christmas gathering, but I knew I couldn’t go there without it being uncomfortable for everyone…so I decided to stay home. Since my children and my soon-to-be ex-husband, would be spending the night at his sister’s, I would be spending Christmas Eve…alone.

The following is what I came up with that got me through that first Christmas Eve.

1. Decide. I knew that I had a choice. I could either be depressed, thinking about everything that I was missing, everything I was losing, everything that was changing. Or I could make the best of the situation. I chose to make the best of the situation. I decided to create a meaningful time for my children and me.

2. Accept help and love from friends and family. I was fortunate enough to have a strong support circle. My family lived some distance away, so that wasn’t an option. One of my friends was kind enough to invite me into her home on Christmas Eve. I could have declined and said I didn’t want to intrude, but I choose to accept their offer. They shared their home and dinner with me that night. That generous spirit is something that I will be forever grateful for. It was a true Christmas gift.

3. Connect with something outside of yourself. Christmas morning, when I woke up, I knew that I again had a choice of how I wanted that day to be. We lived on a farm, and we had four dogs, multiple barn cats outside, and my three beloved horses. I decided to get up and get dressed to go outside to take care of my “loved ones.” I took my time feeding all of my animal family and spent time with them. I thought they enjoyed the time. Then I went back into the house and showered and got ready for the day, continuing to focus my thoughts on what I wanted to create the rest of the day. That led to…

4. Take care of yourself. You may not feel like it, but get cleaned up. Get dressed up; you will feel better. You may not feel great, but you will feel better. Don’t use it as an excuse to overindulge in sugary treats or alcohol. They may make you feel better temporarily, but not long-term. Be loving to yourself. What would you do for a friend in the same situation? Do that for yourself.

5. Put your hurt away for the day. As I said, even though I knew it was time for the relationship to end, and I knew it was the right thing, there were still some hard feelings, and I was incredibly sad. And, I didn’t have to let those feelings in today. Having negative feelings about my soon-to-be-ex was only going to ruin my day, not his. In my situation, the reality was that we were going to be spending the day in the same house. So I decided to make the best of it. How I did that was to focus on our children; after all, this was their Christmas too. It came back to deciding, deciding what kind of person I wanted to be, what kind of Christmas I wanted to have, and what kind of Christmas I wanted my children to have. I couldn’t control his experience or actions, but I could control mine.

Happily, the day turned out pretty well. I honestly don’t have vivid memories of it. The good news is I don’t have regrets or bad memories of that day.

I know this change in your life—whether it’s a divorce or the end of a lengthy relationship—is hard and can seem scary because we don’t know what lies in the future. What lies in the future is possibilities; it’s up to you to create them.

Today, 16 years later, I am so blessed to be in a fabulous relationship with an amazing man for the last ten years. As we get ready for our new, blended family to be together for Christmas, I still practice some of these same things that I learned 16 years ago. The most important lesson that graced me that day was the ability to choose and create your experience from love.

Remember to focus on what is good in your life and fill your heart with love. Darkness cannot exist where there is light. I promise you it won’t always be like this…life will go on. If you allow it, you will meet someone new, and you will love again.

I hope sharing this story will help you to bring more joy to your holidays and some light to your heart. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and much joy and love in your life.

From my heart to yours…