Post-Breakup Holidays

This blog started on November 29, 2006. This post below was one of the first posts and received ASTOUNDING responses from around the globe! I post it every year in December in it’s original – unedited form. Hope it helps.


charlie-brown-christmas_320“I cannot believe I’m alone on Christmas Eve.” – me (December 1987)

We had separated in February. February 10th. I was anxious and depressed and upset through most of February and March. He was being open about his relationship with a woman he worked with. In fact, he introduced our poor, confused children to her and her children less than six weeks after we’d parted.

I was furious that he would introduce my kids to her. I could not believe that he had so little regard for them as to do that. It was a portent of things to come for the next 10 years when he put our children and their feelings last, after her, her kids, her family and just about anything else. But right after we separated, I still thought of him as someone who cared about his children. The things he did immediately after we separated gave me a clue that he would put her and her children before his children for all of the years to come but I tried very hard not to believe it.

Still, I was upset and feeling crazy for them and for me through most of March and April.

It was a time of great emotional upheaval. I was anxious, depressed, lonely, scared and broke. I paced the floors and wrung my hands. What would become of me? Could I REALLY take care of these kids? Would anyone ever love me? Why was I the one who hurt when he was the one so badly behaved? How did he get to be ensconced in puppy love and happiness when I was aching and alone? He was the bad guy, not me. How did this work???

It was so unfair.

I had looked for work in February, March and April but was such a mess I am sure that the interviewers saw right through me. I was a complete and utter mess. I never felt so awful and alone.

At the beginning of May the weather got warmer and after 12 weeks of intense therapy and reading and support groups, I was starting to feel much better. I was exercising, I lost weight, I got my hair cut. I bought new clothes. And at the end of May I finally got a job, a good job, and started to feel better and things were looking up.

In July he wanted to come back home. We did an emotional crazy dance for about six weeks because I could not believe that I really didn’t want this.

For most of March and April I had walked the floors at night and cried and carried on. I had wanted him back and I had wanted our life and our family back. I had been threatened by the idea of someone else taking that.

But now in the summer I could see, after less than six months of intense therapy and support groups, that he was a controlling SOB and I wasn’t really open to a reconcilliation. I was enjoying my new life after a few months of feeling on the emotional skids.

He hung around a long time and he wasn’t crazy about my new changes…the changes that I was crazy about. He questioned where I was going and who I was seeing and for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel the need to answer him. He hung around and kept trying to trip me up with questions. I didn’t like being questioned. I had spent so many years with him explaining myself, defending myself against things I wasn’t thinking or hadn’t done, intentions I didn’t have. He constantly berated me when we were married and accused me of doing things I wasn’t doing. I spent 10 years explaining, apologizing and defending myself. Now, I wasn’t in the mood for it. I had changed the dance steps and he didn’t know how to respond. He would alternate between angry and upset when I wouldn’t answer his questions. For the first time in our relationship I cared more about my reaction to what he was doing than his reaction to what I was doing.

Instead of feeling bad that I made him angry or upset, I was miffed about being questioned. I was taking a step back and was able to see how controlling and ridiculous he was. The “reconcilliation” was a good thing in that I could see the dance steps we did and I no longer wanted to dance. My therapist had told me that the only way to win was not to play the game and here I was, not even WANTING to play the game.

I decided I liked my new life more than I liked him and he did not take it well. We had an argument because I was just not willing to go back to being told what to do. I knew it would be over if I didn’t make this reconcilliation work but the truth was, I didn’t want it to work.

He disappeared in August, back with the other woman and so be it. I didn’t really care. I could not believe that my thoughts were “He’s her problem now. Let her have him. If she’s sick enough to want him and to wait for him after he attempts to come back to me, she can have him.” I was feeling so good about things and no longer cared about her having him. I still didn’t like the fact that he put her and her kids before mine, but I wasn’t willing to fight for him any longer. I didn’t even want him, let alone want to fight for him.

I don’t think he liked my new attitude because one day in September he came over and assaulted me. I filed for divorce and a restraining order and felt like jumping for joy through most of October and November. I was FREEEEEEEEEEEE. Things were coming together. I knew I had a lot of work to do but I was doing it, and the results were fabulous.

For the first time I had stuck up for myself and said “You can’t hit me.” and I was clear that no one would ever hit me again. I was done with that.

Then it snuck up on me…the holidays…I didn’t have a boyfriend…he had a girlfriend…Thanksgiving was rough, very rough…rougher than I thought it would be… then it was Christmas and we were making plans…I didn’t have a lot to give my kids in the way of a “family” Christmas so I let him take them…my only Christmas without them…and it hurt like hell…he was bringing the kids to her house and they were going to have a Norman Rockwell Christmas.

Even if they were all screwed up, they could still bedazzle the children with the trappings and wrappings of Christmas…despite the fact that I had been feeling strong and healthy for most of the fall, I began to unravel in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

By Christmas Eve I was an utter and complete mess. I went to a couple of get-togethers that people in my support groups were holding. I had a very negative view of this…LOSERS…losers whose lives revolved around therapy and support groups and had no significant others and no lives. LOSERS.

And I was one of them. A big LOSER.

I felt anxious and depressed and thoughts of suicide did cross my mind. I felt myself slipping into a deep dark hole.

On Christmas Eve I went to a gathering where people were “sharing” (I thought that if I heard one more person SHARE I was going to hurl). I didn’t want someone to SHARE their feelings with me, I wanted someone to share their life with me, with presents and a tree and the glowing faces of my three little kids…instead my kids were at HIS house with HER wrapping presents, drinking eggnog, caroling for all I knew (my imagination had it pegged as THE perfect Christmas anyone had ever had EVER)

and I was alone on Christmas Eve.

I left the gathering and called a friend of mine and said I was sick of hearing people SHARE, sick of “support groups”, sick of all of it…I didn’t want it to be this way, I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want my children with the ex and his girlfriend and her kids….I didn’t want the holidays…I didn’t want any of this. I wanted this all to go away and I wanted to do something else.

He said, “Okay so what else are you going to do?”

DUH.

There was NOTHING else to do but trudge back to the gathering.

I plopped down next to a guy I had never seen before…he was wearing a motorcycle jacket and had tattoos everywhere including one of barbed wire around his neck (long before anyone tatt’d their neck). Oh good, a dangerous guy…just my speed. He had flaming long red hair and I thought of one of my favorite books, Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. The guy was a real life Woodpecker.

Another friend of mine, David, sat on the other side of me and the three of us started talking.

The guy, Billy, was in town for his friend’s funeral. Another motorcycle guy who killed himself because he was depressed at Christmas. Billy was angry and thou
ght that was the coward’s way out. He could not get right with it. He loved his friend and missed him but he was so ANGRY at him.

I wondered if my family would be angry if I killed myself? I hadn’t even thought of that.

Billy hadn’t touched drugs or alcohol for 3 years and was sticking close to people, even people he didn’t know, to avoid it while he was in town for the funeral and the holidays.

The three of us went out to breakfast and then met again on Christmas night for dinner. The three of us were hurting units but we kept talking (yes, SHARING). I SHARED about my ex and his new woman and Billy said, “What he does with you, he’ll do TO you…she’ll get her turn.” That has become a saying I’ve held onto all these years. It helped me avoid the serial cheaters all these years (well, the one time I ignored it, it bit me as it should have.)

With David and Billy, I felt like we had known each other all of our lives. There was a synergy and a camraderie that just worked and worked well.

Hanging out with Billy and David was nice in a very depressing kind of way…we were like the toys of misfit island–Billy was small but wore a constant gruff scowl and looked like he could kill someone as soon as look at them…David was big and brawny, but had a sweet, gentle baby face and blonde, almost white, hair…if not for his size you’d think he was about 12…gentle as a lamb and looked like a big, huggable bear…and then there was me in the middle…dressed to the nines with no where to go…we were a motley crew…but that was what it was and there wasn’t much I could do about it. As my other friend had asked, “What else was I going to do?”

Here I was on the island of misfit toys with David and Billy.

We saw each other every night that week between Christmas and New Years Eve. On New Year’s Eve one of my support groups asked me to be the New Year’s speaker at a big gathering they were having. Billy and David went with me. We had a great time then we went out for breakfast at 1 am and then drove to the mountains, to a place Billy knew. We parked on a ridge overlooking the pine trees and the rivers.

We had driven up from the city-Providence–and we sat and talked very quietly…sitting there and watching the sunrise. It was absolutely gorgeous. One of the most gorgeous sunrises I have ever seen. The sun shining on a new year…on a new life.

I felt a peace I TRULY had never known before. I had NO IDEA you could feel that serene.

We stayed a while and then drove back to Providence. I dropped David off and I dropped Billy off next to his motorcycle…several people driving by looked at us. We both found that funny. Was it me – dressed to the nines in a long, white cashmere coat hugging the little guy in the motorcycle jacket…or that he was riding a bike in the Northeast on a cold New Year’s Day. We giggled and hugged.
I went home and slept most of the day and night.

The next morning I got up and went out to scrape the ice off my windshield on a very cold morning.

There on my windshield was 1 long stemmed red rose with a note.

The note said, “It’s January 2nd. The holidays are over. There will always be a January 2nd. Take care of yourself and think of me often, Love Billy”

And I never saw him again…not ever…I sometimes wonder what life would be if there was social media or email then…

It seemed he was like an angel who came and went. His appearance in my life seemed magical. I’m not even sure if that kind of occurrence CAN happen in the age of technology.

I never ever saw him again, but I do think of him every holiday season. David and I remained close for a couple of years but we drifted apart and a few years later he died a very premature death due to an undiagnosed heart condition. I think of him every holiday season as well.

I’ve had a few rough holidays since but I managed to build traditions with my kids and even when it was the four of us, we had a holiday and I made it the best I could, even when I had no money and no other people to share it with.

I always told myself, there is a January 2nd. Just wait for it.

As for me, this year–19 years after that year with David and Billy, my life is plentiful. I will spend the holidays with my husband and my kids and grandkids. The ex married the woman that I considered a nutjob. His kids don’t speak to him. I think that all the Norman Rockwell dreams were fantasies to hide the fact that his life didn’t work the rest of the year.

My kids do speak to me and I now enjoy the grandkids and the daughters-in-law and my husband and daughter.

I don’t think I will ever love the holidays but it through great pain that wisdom is born and I am so grateful for the wisdom I received during that first year. There is always a January 2nd.

If you are broken up and broken-hearted on Christmas Eve, and taunted by everyone’s “Norman Rockwell” holidays, know that they are probably not having a good a time as they seem and that there is always a January 2nd.

Hold on, hang tight, and find friends who will share their joy and their pain with you. You can’t ask for more. Here’s to wishing you all a January 2nd.

Susan J. Elliott 12/21/06

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17 Responses to Post-Breakup Holidays

  1. livealittle says:

    Thanks for re-posting this. I kept a copy of it and read it when I’m feeling “ugh.” I was just commenting on how I’m not sure how to get through the holidays for the first time in a decade. After reading your post, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one struggling at this time of year. I think I’ll find something to occupy my time and take it one day at a time until Jan 2!

  2. justsomeguy618 says:

    “There will always be a January 2nd.” I’m keeping this in my head, thank you for sharing this beautiful experience!

  3. Tina says:

    Wow what an incredible story! Reading this has been so helpful @

  4. Mona says:

    Recently split up with my boyfriend of three years. It was my first relationship after a miserable 20 year marriage. Not fun at all. This is all helping a bit, making me feel not so alone in all if this

  5. stephanie3166 says:

    I so needed this as I am there..alone depressed and very lonely..I still have NC with him but I so want some attention from him but i know enough from the book that it will not help and prolong the inevitable .. Thank God for AA my sponsor my therapist and the book and blog it has saved my life many times

  6. joce1962 says:

    I am 54, female and am trying to survive being left again. Although I moved out from his home after 2.5 years of living together, somehow I managed to be the one rejected. My relationship was on and off for 11 years. He broke up with me numerous times but I always loved him and hung on. He was emotionally abusive at times but could be sweet. what happened between he and I has left me broken. There has been so much shaming from him that I feel a heaviness that I carry around every hour of everyday. The things that happened are to personal to say on a blog I am guessing I will have to go on some strong anti depressant(although I’ve never been good with that). The heartache and constant flashbacks, memories and now being alone are becoming too much. He had an affair when I lived with him and it was brutal. I know I am suffering from ptsd and I do see a counselor. What I pray for mostly is relief from the pain of the rejection and the heartache of missing him…. how do I detach? He wasn’t that nice to me so logically it should be a no brainer. However… I think there has been trauma bonding on my part, so I will keep getting through each day. I tend to isolate so I don’t stir up memories or see couples. I hope there is hope. Thanks for listening

    • Tina says:

      I am so sorry that you are hurting Joce1962, I totally understand what you are going through. I am also feeling lonely and depressed after being rejected 2 months ago. I’m thinking about going back to therapy but I’m having trouble talking about this. I just want to get to the part where I feel indifference. I know that I have to do the work but I’m finding it difficult

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      There is HOPE. How are you doing?

  7. kay says:

    So happy I stumbled across this blog and this amazing article in particular. Still reeling over an unexpected breakup last week. Would’ve been our first Christmas together and to say that I’m disappointed in the death of that dream (amongst others) would be an understatement. Feeling like if all you wonderful people can make it through, I can too.

  8. chrisb516 says:

    Great story, all of this is helping me overcome the big emptiness that hit me two weeks ago. Took the first step today mailing all of her presents back to amazon, it felt relieving. One step at a time!

  9. Cameron says:

    In September the man I had been with for 17 months blindsided me with a breakup. Things had been different since January but he kept promising to do better and I waited and waited for him to act like we were in a relationship again. He broke up with me saying nothing was ever good enough for me but later changed his tune to he didn’t think he was enough of what I need and that he needed to take some time to himself to learn how to love himself before he could love anyone else. I told him I would like to try again when he was ready and he said alright. We parted ways and I never tried to contact him again. I missed him and thought about him everyday but I knew if he was going to ever try he had to decide that’s what he wanted on his own. The holidays have been difficult and I wished for nothing more than to hear from him again. Around 10pm on Christmas I saw my phone light up with a text from him after 3 months he finally came back for me! I was nervous but i had hope that maybe he was ready to try again. He told me Merry Christmas and he hoped I had a good day. I asked what made him text me and he said “It’s Christmas and I didn’t want you to think I was a total shit. I’m still trying to figure out how to love myself like I promised you I would. but it hasn’t been easy.” He ended with a text saying we should talk soon and I was over the moon thinking maybe this was my chance and he’d finally changed…Less than 24 hours later I found out he’s already on the dating apps looking for new guys to date. I was devastated. Why contact me if he’s moving on with his life? Why worry about what I think of him if we haven’t spoken for 3 months? Why get my hopes up? I haven’t been able to sleep or eat today. This feels much worse than the first time he broke my heart. How do I move on from having my heart broken by the same man twice?

    • Bynes says:

      Hey Cameron, sorry to hear about that! I do think some people just want to think that they are “nice” by sending token merry Xmas, happy birthday messages etc and it makes them feel good, but at the end of the day you want more than they can ever give. I’m in the same kind of situation with my ex who I split up with after 3 years (living together for more than 2 years) and split up a month ago but he wants us to be friends while he decides if it could be more. I have said no, but he still sends me friendly texts / “merry Christmas beautiful girl” etc – it doesn’t help, it just seems to prolong the pain. It’s recent but I have told him to stop it because it’s not what I want, and he has said he will so on New Years tomorrow I hope he doesn’t. I know part of me will be sad if he doesn’t send me a happy new year text but I also know it’s better if he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to let me go but also doesn’t want to have a life with me either so I think better to just cut it off and move forward- there WILL be someone much better for you (and me I hope) later down the road and you will be glad this last relationship didn’t work.

      • Susan J. Elliott says:

        Awesome reply! Thank you for sharing! I’ve been away and working on legal issues so I appreciate the help and responses from the bloggers here! Thank you for a great reply!

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      It’s called, “I have an itch and I need to scratch it and everyone else be damned.” It was about HIM and never ever about you. Why do you want him? He sounds like a selfish shit. Be good to you and move on. You can do this!!!

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