By Laura Bonarrigo
There was a time when what we did as parents and lovers was sacred. Private. Our own meaningful traditions that helped create the new family we were forming together. It was the way we made our family separate from our parents or the neighbors. It meant something and it holds a special place in my heart. It was filled with the dreams we had for our parental responsibilities and our role as lovers, and friends. When that relationship broke apart, I not only lost the other part of my marriage, I also lost those traditions and meanings too.
What was, and for quite some time, remained confusing though, is that we still had the same children. Even though we were no longer living under the same roof, they remembered what was special and important, be it the brownie who left them seasonal gifts outside their bedroom door or the half-Birthday celebrations complete with family and friends. They understood that holidays were now filled with different people even though I had the same food on the table. They reported back when ordering in food was done at their other home, instead of home cooked meals, making me wonder why that part seemed so easily let go? They also suffered the loss of what was magical for us as a family.
My first few holidays alone were painful. I found myself on the kitchen floor in tears, surrounded by sterling silver trays and soup on the stove. Learning how to cope with losing the comfort of the union while making new traditions for me and my children has not only been an eye-opening experience, it has taught me the value of starting over without holding on. It's caused me to breathe in at the moment and relinquish control over to others. It's helped me become in touch with what matters to me, my children, and given me the confidence to create anew.
Here are two ways to recreate meaning and traditions even when it's hard.
1. Practice gratitude. You've been given the gift of starting over and no matter how difficult it may feel in the moment, you have an opportunity to make your days your own. I get it if you're angry and in fear! In those moments, gratitude will seem like meaningless platitudes. I'm the first to self-righteously declare nothing is good. But when I stop and really breathe in, at the moment, I've been given a big change in my life experience and that's all that's going on. I'm not a bad mom or a bad woman. I'm not hanging on to what was and pretending reality doesn't exist.
The meanings I bring to the moment color everything. If I say the holiday stinks because I can't entertain the way I used to, well, then it'll stink and I'll be in a horribly negative mood. But if I declare my kids and I can now have chocolate fondue for New Year's Eve or any holiday we want to, then I'm a kick-ass mom who's made her children delighted for the night! So decide what works for you and your life today. Consider the meaning you're making stuff mean and lift your own spirits and those you're with.
2. Who cares? Really. At times, my anger gets the better of me. I've had to learn to stop trying to control other people and every time I do, I get a lesson from God. How vain of me to think that what we did together would transfer into his single life? He was rejecting my behavior the same way I rejected his. What made me think he would continue our sacred traditions when we were no longer together and why bother to make him?
Going from being married to being single isn't for the faint of heart. It takes guidance and stamina to stay on your side of the street. The better I got at managing my own suffering and focusing on healing, the easier it's gotten for my kids. They're a lot wiser than I sometimes give them credit so because of them and their need for me to show up, I let go.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura's a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce School, an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and laurabonarrigo.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.