Christmas is just a couple of weeks away already!
Even though Ron is now home, I still feel emotional about holidays. We spent 15 years apart, and each one of those Christmases were difficult. If you have a loved one in prison, as you face the holidays this year, I know you are filled with grief and dread. They won’t be the same, and your heart has no desire to celebrate. I know because I spent 15 Christmases with my husband in prison.
This holiday season will be different without your husband at home. You might have no desire to celebrate or find joy in the season as the pain of your loved one’s incarceration breaks your heart. Although you are doing the best you can, everyone around you can tell your heart is not in it. You are just going through the motions for your children, family, and your own sanity. The traditions provide you with a sense of direction, but you walk through them as though you were a zombie. The tree is up – check, presents wrapped – check, food prepared – check. Overwhelming sadness – still there.
The loneliness you are experiencing is causing you to exert enormous energy to just get through each day.
So, while the season’s joy energizes everyone else around you, you are exhausted and spent. Pretending to be OK makes everything ten times more work than it used to be. Just when you think it will be OK, something happens that knocks you right down again.
Seeing families together, shopping alone or walking past what your kids really want to shop the clearance section reinforces your feelings of isolation and despair. Your heart cries, “it is not fair!” and your eyes threaten to release the tears you have been holding back. It certainly does not feel like the “most wonderful time of the year.” I know what you are going through.
We missed 15 years of celebrating together.
Although it seems like it should have been easier as time went by, it didn’t. Every year, as we missed out on more time together that could never be recovered, my heart was crushed. Despite the pain, I learned how to enjoy the holidays and build wonderful family memories. Although nothing will make you NOT miss your husband, there are things you can do that will help you and your family during this season.
I discovered that my biggest problem was focusing all my energy on what I was missing.
I was not allowing myself to be grateful for what I did have because the pain of my loss overshadowed everything else. Once I realized that I had a choice of what I was focusing my attention on, I decided to change my focus. I intentionally began to look for things that I could be grateful for. As I looked for opportunities to choose joy, I started to invest in making memories with my children. Instead of my circumstances, Christ became the focus of Christmas. That change in perspective allowed me to see my pain in a different light. This provided the courage I needed to let myself find joy in the midst of my pain.
I began to enjoy the holidays despite the pain. My focus changed from surviving the season to being grateful for the blessing of my life and my family. Here are some tips to help you get through the holiday season while your husband is in prison:
- Include him as much as possible. Have him help choose gifts for your family and friends, write the Christmas cards, and join during family events by calling or video-calling during the festivities.
- Avoid “Downers.” A downer is someone or something that causes you more pain than joy. This could be people who deliberately try to sabotage your happiness or an activity you did with your spouse that causes you to miss them even more. It is OK to set aside some activities, for now, to keep yourself mentally and emotionally healthy.
- Start new traditions. Now is the perfect time to add something new and fun to your traditional holiday celebration. Have your husband help you choose a new activity that will help you focus on making good memories.
- Stay on budget. Overspending to compensate for your spouse’s absence will just create more stress post-Christmas. Avoid the temptation to buy your way out of your pain by only taking what you can afford to spend with you to the store. Invest in your future peace by limiting your spending now.
- Make time to enjoy friends and family who make you feel loved. Spending time with people who fill your heart will help lessen the burden of your grief.
Holidays are hard when your husband is in prison- but they don’t have to be terrible. Grab ahold of gratefulness and joy by remembering what this season is about- Jesus, Christ the Savior, was born to save the world.
Merry Christmas, my friend.
I am rooting for you-