Should you send holiday cards while you’re going through a divorce? (YES!)

divorce healing holidays Nov 30, 2020

I have sent holiday cards with photos for the past 10+ years.  When I was single, I sent a card saying “Have your ‘selfie’ a merry little Christmas” with – of course – a selfie of me.  When I was married to my first husband we sent a Christmukkah holiday card, recognizing both of our religions.  After we split up I traveled extensively for work and had no problem sharing amazing photos of myself traveling around the world, single again.

Then I met my second husband who has three children, and for years we sent a family holiday card with all five of us.  When I met the kids it was at a pumpkin patch, and my ex husband liked to try to recreate that first photo of us for our card every year.  I loved the tradition.  After we split up due to his mental illness, the thought of sending a card without him and the kids in the photo absolutely devastated me. 

What would the 85+ recipients of my holiday card think?!?!  She already was married and divorced once – then she was single – then she was married with stepchildren – now she’s single again?  As I played out the worst case scenarios in my mind of what people may be thinking, I realized that the only thing that really mattered is what I thought of myself.

I remember talking to my best friend about being hesitant to send a “single” holiday card again.  I told her, “It would be like inviting you to a THIRD wedding – wouldn’t you just laugh?”  She looked at me as though she would cry and reached her hand out to me, saying, “Oh Andrea, no, I will be so happy for you when you marry again.”

I decided to dig deep into myself.  Being kind to myself meant acknowledging that the people I send cards to are also kind; these are people who I have known for years, if not decades. These are people who celebrated all of my life choices, and I celebrated their choices too.  Not a single person receiving my holiday card would be as judgmental to me as I was being to myself.

I decided to honor myself by sending my holiday card.  After all, I love going online and choosing the design, the card stock, the envelope liner, the fonts and colors.  I truly am a person who loves sending snail mail!  Even though the aesthetics were super fun to pick out, what would the photo be and what the hell would I say in my card?  Should I take a selfie of me crying and say, “Well I barely survived this year and I still don’t believe in love…”?  I did feel that way at the time, and worse, but of course that’s not quite an uplifting holiday message.

What message did I want to send?  And what photo would I use?  I had just gotten back from Newport, Rhode Island, visiting my best friend.  We had gone to the beach one cold November day and we took photos of each other jumping up in the air – this is a tradition she and I had from the Chicago lakefront decades ago.  My hair was disheveled flying through the air, I was wearing her husband’s fleece because I was cold, and it’s not the most flattering picture of me at all – BUT – it had one thing no one had seen in months.  I was laughing with a huge smile on my face.  (It may have been my only smile of 2018!)

I pasted the photo onto the card reading Have Faith and a Very Merry Christmas.  I wasn’t sure what to write on the back but knew what I wanted to really say.  Unedited, I let myself be truly authentic to where I was at the time:

This past year has definitely not been my favorite, although as 2018 comes to an end I am filled with gratitude knowing I have never felt more loved.  I realize that what I take with me from the significant people in my life is far more meaningful than anything I could ever leave behind.  May this holiday season and the new year bring you and your family peace, warmth, and touches of love when you need it most.  Cheers to being “all in” with those closest to your heart as you look ahead to 2019.  Onward!

Years later, I am so happy I sent that card.  It was authentic and my primary message was really to first and foremost let everyone know I was alright, and second, wish those around me a very happy and loving holiday season.  We all go through truly terrible times in our lives.  The luckiest of us know how to reach out to those we love when we need them most.  I had so much positive feedback on that holiday card, and still feel proud that I was able to put it out there at that time.

So, for you, should you send a holiday card even if you’re going through a divorce?  YES, YES, YES!

1.     The card is about wishing others joy this season.  That is never wrong, or a bad message.  Everyone you would send this card to, even your cousin who’s always been kind of bitchy to you, can benefit from hearing a heartfelt message from you and your kids.  The world needs messages of love and healing for so many reasons – send a positive message (literally) to others!

2.     Sign and return address it however you want!  If you’re worried about how to sign your name when you’re in the middle of a divorce, know that you can do whatever feels right for you.  Sign it from The Smith’s even if your husband isn’t in the photo.  Or sign it from your first name and the kid’s names.  Again, there’s no right way, give yourself permission to do what feels right to you.

3.     You decide on the distribution list.  No one needs to give you permission to omit or send it to your ex’s family or friends you have in common.  It’s up to you who you send it to.  I sent my holiday card to my ex-mother-in-law in 2018 and then never did again.  That’s what (still) feels right to me.

4.     You decide what you want the card to say.  This is your message.  Whether you want to say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day, Hanukkah Blessings, or Happy New Year, it’s your call.  Say whatever you want, remember this is about putting positivity and love into the world. Everyone needs these messages, this year more than ever!

5.     Show your face(s)!  The best part about holiday cards is that I get to see the faces, young and old, of the people I love so much.  Especially in 2020 as we haven’t been able to spend time with loved ones, I think the holiday card is paramount this year.  Your loved ones want to see your face, so take a picture with your phone, it doesn’t have to be pro, it just has to be you.

 

My last tip is that during 2020 the printing and shipping times have been more delayed due to Covid-19, so get your cards ordered!  I personally think it’s never too late to send a spirited message, so even if you are sending later in the season, it’s still a great idea.  Embrace the spirit of the season and don’t let your divorce keep you from sharing your true self with those you love the most.

 

And, finally, as you check the mail this season and receive those picture-perfect, heavy-card-stock posed family photos, remember the sentiment behind it all: Love, spirit, faith, holidays, love, blessings. If you dread opening these cards, put them in a drawer to revisit later in the year.

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