Thanksgiving & Single Parents- It’s a mixed bag

We have entered what can be thought of by many single parents as the most depressing part of our year. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and then comes the rest of the winter family-based holidays. It is these days that being thankful comes a little harder than at other times of the year. It is alright to feel holiday depression, you are not alone. Your responsibility to yourself and your children is to get through it magnificently.

Whether you initiated your marital or partner split, or whether you were the recipient by divorce, death, or a break-up, there is cause for depression and sometimes despair. This is a normal part of being a human; the ebb and flow of emotions, the range of feelings. These feelings get magnified by experience and by circumstance. Thanksgiving is one such circumstance.

For me, the last 7 Thanksgivings have been an absolute drain on my emotional reserves. I miss my children so badly when I don’t have them; and when I do have them, I’m resentful towards the circumstances that robbed us of a family experience like those around us revel in. These feelings expand throughout the season and by New Year’s Day, I’m exhausted from the oscillating anger and grief.

It is okay that I go through this, and it’s okay if you do too. It’s proof how much we care about family and how preciously we will treasure it if we are ever lucky enough again to have one expanding beyond just us and our kids.

Managing those intense emotions takes different forms. Some years, it’s been wine and crying intensely in jags throughout the day. Other years it’s been feeling like I’m imposing on friends who try to make me feel like I belong; for a short time though, I’m not miserable. Whereas I didn’t drink when I was married, I’ve certainly become a fan since.

There’s no doubt I’m thankful. People say to focus on what you’re thankful for, I do that in droves. I do it daily, year round. Come Thanksgiving, I’m just sad. I feel guilt for taking a traditional family experience away from my children. I feel anger at the circumstances that deprived me of my traditional family dream. I am still thankful for what I have; that is not diminished. I am not focusing on what I don’t have; it’s just so deeply imbedded in me, that it takes me over.

This is good; this means I believe passionately in family and tradition. It also means I’ve been deeply hurt and I need to continue to manage the intensity of the feelings. I need to keep fighting to feel okay. And that’s okay as well. Because I’m very good at fighting for what I believe in, and I believe in happiness for me and my kids.

For you single parents who go through what I do this time of year, you aren’t alone. For you to know you aren’t alone might in itself help you feel slightly better. There is strength in numbers, and like minded people unite in order to better understand and navigate their realities. Knowing we are okay for feeling the way we do, helps us to find the strength to heal so that we hurt less. For those of you who have found others to love and others to form a family with, I yearn to be among your count one day.

Each Thanksgiving, I hope this is the last I have to feel this tremendous ache. Each Thanksgiving, I hope I find better ways to manage and persevere. This article is this year’s attempt. I’m reaching out to you letting you know you aren’t alone, and it will get better. If it gets worse, you may need professional assistance. Or more wine.

My parting words for this Thanksgiving to single parents, and all people everywhere, don’t drink and drive. It’s okay to be unhappy, it is not okay that your unhappiness robs others of their life or health. If you recognize you are unhappy, take steps to make yourself feel better. We will all get through this. And next year will be better!

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