2

If you have experienced divorce in the past 12 months, you may be surprised by your own reaction to the festivities of June. While we all know how difficult the fall season is-jam packed with holidays, traditions, family get-togethers and parties- June holds its own challenges.

In the fall we celebrate “calendar holidays”-we come together with extended family, loved ones and friends to celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and New Year’s Eve. While each family has their traditions, and changing them can be difficult, we find alternatives in that first year of uncoupling- instead of a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner we may leave town and go skiing. We may choose to opt out of the big Christmas gathering by working at a soup kitchen or simply going to the movies. It is certainly a struggle to deal with memories of holidays gone by, but we are buoyed by knowing that the next year will be easier.

However, most of the June celebrations are not “calendar centered”, but “child centered.” Often these are one-time events and so they don’t offer a chance for “do-over’s”. June includes graduations, engagements and weddings. But also be mindful of other child centered celebrations: Janie’s’ recital and Johnny’s baseball banquet may not feel like “big” events to you, but to your children these are rites of passage.

With the change in your family unit, these child centered events are often bitter sweet; we rejoice for our child’s accomplishments while we grieve for the loss of our partnership. We are thrilled and proud of our children but our own loss is palpable. Unlike our Calendar events of the fall and early winter, we can’t opt out until next year.

These child centered transitions are milestones that become part of the narrative of their lives. These are once in a lifetime events for your child. Years from now your children will tell their children the stories of these special days as they reminisce about their lives and hand down these memories to later generations.

Whatever you plan for your children, however you handle it, imagine not only what you want today but how those choices will be woven into their narrative. For example, your son( and you) maybe furious at his father’s affair and consequent leaving, but how will that son, when he is a man, look back on this experience when he recalls his father not being at his graduation? Or the daughter getting married, whose mother’s reliance on drugs had made it impossible for her to parent; in years to come when the bride shares the photos of that special day, will she wish she had photos of her children’s grandmother?

As parents and loved ones, we must remember that these days are celebrations of young people beginning their life’s journey. We owe it to ourselves and our children to take the high road, put our own discomfort, pain and anger on the side, and create celebrations that will morph into rich joyous memories for our children. The last thing we want to do is allow our negative feelings to manifest in behaviors that mar this special experience. We all know those horror stories of someone drinking too much at a celebration and acting inappropriately, or the party that evolves into a confrontation. While we cringe at these outbursts, when emotions are heightened by nostalgia, it is easy to forget the big picture and lose control.

These milestone days become part of our children’s legacy forever. It falls to each of us to, as much as possible, to insure these memories are drama free and filled with love and joy.

 

© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

2 Comments

  1. Amanda on the 21. Jun, 2015 remarked #

    This article relates to what I am experiencing currently. My son has just graduated from high school and I am planning a party for him. His father and I are going through a not friendly divorce for over 2 years now due to his father not being cooperative in anyway. He also continues to be verbally abusive towards me. I currently have possession of the home which my ex cannot enter. I would like to have the graduation party at my home due to financial reasons and because I want to. My ex is not contributing to the party in any way. My son wants his father to attend. I do not have a problem with him attending. I do however have a few concerns. Many of our longtime family mutual friends or mine are uncomfortable with my ex being there and may not attend due to this. I am concerned that there will not be many in attendance due to the awkwardness of this. I also have been seeing someone who has been helping me get my home into shape for the party and is willing and wants to help prepare all the food with me and all other preparations for the party although he knows that he cannot attend due to my ex possibly causing a scene if he is present. I feel very badly about him not being able to attend especially when he is being so extremely helpful and understanding which my ex has never been. I know that this party is in celebration of my son’s accomplishments but I am tired of always having to adjust my life or walk on eggshells because of my ex’s behaviors. There is no reasoning with my ex and I do not want any of the guest feeling uncomfortable. A friend of mine feels that I should tell my son that dad cannot come but I do not feel right doing that. I want to be an adult about this and put my son first but I know my ex will be unreasonable. If there is anyone who has been through a similar situation and has any feedback for me I would appreciate it.

    • Donna Ferber on the 28. Jun, 2015 remarked #

      Your guests comfort is secondary. In this case, your son’s wishes come first. This is his day and he has the right to celebrate with both parents. The exception would be if there is a threat of violence.
      Years from now your guests won’t remember their discomfort but your son will never forget that you banned his father from sharing this special day.

Leave a Comment