Of all the suckitude of divorce, losing my kids half the time is the worst. Nothing prepares you for that pain. In the early days, after The Ex picked up the boys, I’d stand in each of their empty bedrooms, absorbing the awful silence, picturing them snuggled under their fluffy comforters, remembering kissing them goodnight every night and taking those moments utterly for granted. Sometimes I’d sink to the floor and weep, my chest aching not only with sadness but also with hatred for The Ex. When I wonder why I stayed so long, I remind myself that this pain is why. I stayed so I wouldn’t lose them, even though there were a million reasons to go.
When divorce gurus talk about the pain of missing half your kids’ childhoods, the usual response is a peppy list of all the things you can do to distract yourself from your sadness. Get together with friends! Volunteer! Exercise! Rediscover your interests! Don’t forget to eat right and get plenty of sleep and take good care of yourself! Before long, you’ll cherish your alone time! And if you’re not feeling the holiday spirit … fake it till you make it!
I’m here to tell you: Fuck that.
Our society is allergic to people in grief, to the messiness of raw mourning. If where you are emotionally means all you want to do for Thanksgiving is wrap yourself in a blanket on the couch, mainline Winter Oreos, and binge-watch wtfever on TV, I say that’s a valid choice for mourning the death of your Normal Rockwell dreams.
If you actually are feeling up to Thanksgiving with friends or volunteering at the local homeless shelter or jetting off to Paris to escape the holiday altogether and having a fling with a hot French chef who brings you chocolate croissants and café au lait every morning, that’s good too. It’s your choice, to make freely without any pressure to conform to society’s abbreviated timeframe for when people should Get Back On The Horse Already.
This Thanksgiving is my first holiday without the kids and I was still debating the best way to get myself through it when the Family Crisis hit. If you’ve seen the last couple of blog posts, you know I flew to my hometown, loaded the rest of my mother’s stuff in a U-Haul, and drove north to Georgia where she’s temporarily living with my brother and sister-in-law. This isn’t so much a holiday as a week of service to my family—running my mother on errands, two unsuccessful trips to the DMV to get her a state ID card, sorting out doctor’s appointments and financial disclosures and bank accounts and insurance hiccups, having hard conversations about my mother’s care and our lack of ability to pay for it, and giving Good Brother and his wife precious time alone and time with just their little family. Work that’s good for your soul, as one of my aunt’s would say. But work that’s not fun or relaxing or full of gooey holiday cheer. And through it all, I miss my boys.
As Turkey Day approaches, my mood is heading south. The two indispensible people in my life aren’t here and I’m doomed to missing half their holidays for the rest of their childhoods and many more after that. I’d like to be on that couch with some Oreos and a marathon of Warehouse 13.
Instead, I settle for the next best thing. Sister-in-law bonding time with red wine, praline fudge, and Bad Moms.