When I am talking with a newly bereaved or soon to be bereaved person we often talk of “a year of firsts.” The basic idea is that everything that first year after a loss is new and freshly painful. Then after that first year, things get better. They don’t hurt as much. Adjustments have already been made in traditions. Sure there are still things to hurt your heart: Weddings, the birth of a baby, graduations, etc. But that first year is the hardest.
In the weeks and months after my separation and subsequent divorce I found myself using the same structure. While divorce is not the death of a person, it is the death of a life – the dreams you had, the plans you made. That life is over. And you grieve. It doesn’t matter if that life was good, bad, indifferent… It’s still over. You still grieve.
The holidays are the worst. My ex-husband officially left right before Mother’s Day. It sucked. The girls had no gifts to give me. Luckily my Mum thought of it and had them make something and give me some bulbs (which grew huge this year). Granted it wasn’t about me needing a gift. It was more about them not having one to give because their father didn’t get them one to give. I have ensured they have something for every holiday to give their father and I will continue to do so because he is their father and it is the right thing to do (according to my set of morals and values).
Now it is December. The time of year for family and love. The time for honored traditions and, let’s face it, division of labor. I always decorated the inside, my ex-husband the outside. He handled tree prep and I did tree decorating. This year, it is the me show.
I showed that tree who was boss – okay I almost gave up, almost called my Dad to help me, almost… almost… but DIDN’T! Ignore that I totally should have pulled my car out and did that in the garage. Next year!
This gave me horrible anxiety. I was asking mom-friends what to do with all these cute-gag-worthy-yearly-ornaments we had accumulated over the years over two months ago. Also, I found myself Pinteresting ways to decorate my tree. I did not want my ex-husband looking at me from MY tree. So I decided on a theme and went with it. I imagined myself sitting over the box of ornaments after the kids went to bed crying into a bottle of wine while I picked up each yearly one and remembered the life that was gone.
Guess what? The kids wanted to help me and I shoved the shit that reminded me of him into a box to donate (or catharticly burn) at a later date. My eldest (Monkey) wanted to keep a picture of the three of us from her first Christmas. I let her. I’m not going to erase her life just because my ex is in it. He is still her father.
A Year of Firsts. Well, so far, I’ve put up my own tree and decorated the outside of the house. The inside is coming along, but the main things are done. Now to get through the rest of this first year in style.
There will be things going into the second year that are different – like not having them certain holidays or for their birthdays. But, we will make new traditions.
I intend to show my girls that when life goes on different path than you planned, lace up your boots and get walking because it’s going to be an adventure!