I am writing this especially for women who have been married to men whom they later found out were gay, and who feel betrayed by the experience. However, these thoughts also apply to all who have experienced a betrayal of their love and trust in intimate relationships.
“Betrayal” is from the Latin tradere, which means to hand over. It may be ironic to think of “handling” the holidays after all that was promised you has been handed over to another. However, it is a reminder to “get a handle” on your own life again and receive it back with strong and gentle hands of your own.
The “you” that you get back may feel like a victim of kidnapping who needs to learn how to trust again and, in the meantime, needs to know that she/he is being kept safe.
So, your main goal in holiday times is to keep yourself safe. I find it interesting that “safe” and “salvage” have the same origin. The root is save. In one sense, your task is to save yourself from further injury. In another sense, it is to save what remains and make repair, to salvage. When combined, the task is to keep safe and make repair.
Here are some suggestions for staying safe and making repairs to your soul in holiday times.
Enter the holidays with a meditation or prayer of gratitude for your life. The holidays, no matter the religious tradition, are about reconnecting you to THE ALL that makes you whole. Ask God or your best and highest sense of self to help you see opportunities to connect to what is life affirming.
Let go of expectations that anything will be quite the same. Why should it be? You’ve experienced something radical that can’t be un-experienced. So your perceptions and experiences will be different.
Do old rituals that you have enjoyed but do them with a significant difference. If only you and your immediate family decorated on a certain day for the holidays, then perhaps agree with a friend to help each other decorate. It is a way to establish what is called the “new normal.”
Plan ahead regarding food and drink. It is fine to enjoy the holiday treats, but put a reminder card in your purse or wallet that prompts you to take care of your body. Refuse to betray yourself by overeating or making trouble for yourself with alcohol.
Pace yourself so that you have time to rest. It is better to do less, but be truly present, than to do more and feel burned out.
Beware of trying to make up for the absence of your child’s/children’s parent (if you have been married with children) with more activities or gifts. They, too, need to grieve and need you demonstrate that relationships and not things are what matter most.
Create a new tradition. Choose something to which you can assign a meaning that supports life and love, even if you don’t feel like it.
Make use of candles as they may be used in your religious tradition. For Christians, candles are a reminder that the “Light of the World” came into the world in the darkest night of the year. Those in the Jewish tradition remember the miraculous oil that kept the sacred lamp lit following victory over their persecutors. Again, the light of promise had been with them even in dark times.
Exercise! It releases very helpful neuro-chemicals, dispels toxins, and aids with sleep.
Sleep! Sleep is absolutely necessary to release certain hormones that are required to repair our bodies. Lack of sleep results in stress and the release of corrosive cortisol that can drain our adrenal glands and result in fatigue.
Be conservative with your spending. You can’t shop your way out of grief or pain. If possible, make things with the help of others that convey the love of your heart.
Pause and think before you either accept or reject an invitation or opportunity. Will it contribute to your wellbeing? Are you saying “yes” out of love or out of obligation? Are you saying “no” out of fear or self-empowerment?
Take good care of yourself. And if I may be helpful in navigating the holidays, please call me!