Monica shut the door to her daughter’s bedroom, bringing the quiet evening to a close. With only a few days until Christmas, she missed the laughter, the million questions about Santa Claus and the tender conversation shared over cups of hot chocolate. Because of the divorce, things were different.
Families are supposed to be together on Christmas, but her family had been tragically split apart. Not long ago, they had been a family of four — Monica, her husband, Maurice, their daughter, Victoria, and their son, Luke. But their son had died four days after his birth, and the loss had broken both their hearts and shattered their already faltering marriage.
Even after the divorce, the tension between Monica and Maurice remained. Monica knew it was tied to the multiple losses, but that knowledge didn’t make their communication easier. The process of working out a custody schedule and negotiating time with Victoria felt overwhelming.
Her hand still on the doorknob to her little girl’s bedroom, Monica glanced at the ceiling. Oh God, please. Please make this better. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to do this alone. I need You.
Monica went through the motions, but Christmas that first year was painfully different. She and Maurice alternated their time with Victoria, which disrupted both of their holiday celebrations. And Victoria was paying the price, too. Their little girl sensed the tension, and her demeanor was uncharacteristically subdued.
Monica knew she needed someone to help her through this season. So she attended a retreat that ministered to people grappling with heartache. There, she connected with others who knew sadness, but also knew about God’s healing touch. They loved God with authenticity, and their kindness melted the ice that surrounded Monica’s heart.
Through that healing retreat and the compassionate counsel she received, Monica opened her heart to God once again. He allowed Monica to see how the tension between her and Maurice was damaging Victoria’s tender heart. The closer she was drawn to God, the more she saw her precious girl through His eyes.
With new resolve, Monica determined to put Victoria first. Doing that meant honoring Victoria’s dad, even when they didn’t agree. She set aside her feelings about him and the divorce and focused on how she and Maurice could be healthy co-parents to their girl.
Four years later, Victoria is a bright-eyed, cheerful 8-year-old. She knows she will get to see both parents on Christmas Day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. She’s confident of their love for her and their respect for one another. And Monica is a wiser, healthier woman than the one who, with great sadness, entered that first holiday season as a single parent. The loss of her infant son and the tragedy of her divorce had filled her heart with grief, but God tenderly healed the hurt and paved the way to wholeness.
Single-Parent Tool Kit
Monica and Maurice implemented practical tools to put their daughter first. They learned to:
Be proactive and plan visitation in advance, avoiding last-minute confusion or frustration.
Use a mediator because sometimes they needed another person to help make decisions that were best for Victoria.
Be flexible. Monica wanted to share her family traditions with her daughter. If Monica didn’t have Victoria on a specific holiday, she simply celebrated with her girl on a different day.
Show respect. Monica knew that belittling Maurice would demean Victoria’s worth. Maurice was no longer her husband, but he would always be Victoria’s father.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2009 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2009 by Elsa Kok Colopy. Used by permission.
Click here to find scenarios that may match your unique situation, such as long-distance visitation, custody struggles when your ex-spouse doesn’t share your values, or how to help your children when the other parent is disengaged.
Did you enjoy this article? Read more like it.
Subscribe to Thriving Family magazine!