COLUMN: Surviving Christmas without the kids

It's a rite of passage for almost all divorced parents — going that first Christmas alone

As Christmas festivities get underway this weekend, I’m cognizant that not everyone is having a merry time of it.

There has been tremendous loss felt in Chilliwack this year, with too many young people taken much too early. And so there are those mourning loved ones, close friends and family members.

It’s a path I haven’t had yet to walk, thankfully. I don’t think I could come up with the adequate phrases to soothe that sort of mourning, and won’t attempt to here except to offer condolences.

However, as a divorced mom there is another type of sadness I’ve faced. And that would be the first Christmas without the kids. On my first solo year, I ended up with pneumonia and in the ER.

That pretty much sums up how I felt about the matter. My heart didn’t literally break, but my lungs did fill with an unholy mess and make me feel like giving in.

It was an awful Christmas. My worst. I lied there on my couch, mostly immobile for days on end, suffering in a hot sweat watching the lights on our Christmas tree twinkle ad nauseam.

Unfortunately, this is a rite of passage for almost all divorced parents.

At some point — way sooner than one ever anticipates in those blissful, heady days of love and parenting under one roof — you will spend a Christmas holiday alone. You may not actually come down with an illness, but I promise you will cry and feel sorry for yourself, even if it’s momentarily. It may manifest as drinking a little too much, or pouting at the dinners your friends kindly invite you to, or talking too long to cashiers about your sad and sorry state.

But it’s going to happen.

Of course, there’s no rationalizing with a parent who is missing their child. Sure, you can tell him or her to keep busy, to do the things they always want to do but can’t find the time for, like clean the junk drawer, or visit friends. You could even remind them they can sleep without interruption, or focus on work.

For me, that awful year was 2010.

And now, I’m about to have my fourth Christmas alone. By the time you’ve read this, my kids will have opened their gifts from me, and headed off to spend the rest of their holiday in another city, far away.

But there will be no crying for me this year. I know from experience it will all be okay.

And so this is me, telling any of you divorced or separated parents embarking on Christmas alone for the first time, the same.

It’s going to be okay.

Your children are going to have a marvelous time away from home, whether you sulk in bed or enjoy yourself. They are going to be treated well, and they’re going to experience important moments that will become their own cherished memories one day.

And yes, they’ll miss you too.

So, my wish for you on this first Christmas alone is to do those things you never get to do. Call up your friends and try to meet them for coffee. When they can’t, because they’re bogged down with family obligations, smile and know that you are temporarily free from those yourselves.

Get a manicure. Treat yourself to lunch at a pub. Sleep in. Eat ice cream for breakfast. Binge watch Netflix.

And if you need to cry, then for heaven’s sake, cry.

But most importantly, rest up, single mommas and poppas. The kids will be back in no time, and for better and for worse, it will be like they never left.