Both Halloween and divorce can be scary, and then there are the ghosts. But Halloween presents an opportunity for transitioning families to have a fun holiday in advance of the more traditional holiday season.
Even seemingly innocuous holidays like Halloween can elicit and exacerbate the conflicting emotions and fears the process of divorce can create. Halloween is the unofficial beginning of the holiday season, the season of memories and traditions and family. But for divorced families, the celebrations of the upcoming holidays, perhaps in earlier years so predictable and reliable, can evoke memories of extended families and holidays past and are now cloaked in uncertainty. Everyone is adjusting to the “new normal” and trying to figure out how to respect familiar rituals in the context of the family’s metamorphosis. Holidays can be difficult and far removed from Norman Rockwell’s perfect, nostalgic depictions.
In Meghan Freed’s recent article, “Understanding the Rollercoaster: How an Informed and Empathic Attorney Can Better Serve Clients,” published in the Connecticut Bar Association’s Connecticut Lawyer magazine, psychotherapist Gail Rosenfeld notes about divorce, “Both partners had a vision of the future that included an intact marriage; therefore, both ‘grieve their loss of the dream of their marriage and fear their unknown future.’” She explains that “‘…everything is new and scary and they are suffering a loss’” regardless of which person initiated the proceedings.’” (Contact us if you would like a copy of the article.) Adding the holidays to this angst underscores the specter of divorce as the end of the known and the beginning of the unknown. There is, however, a way to use the relatively light, non-religious 31st of October to remove the shroud from the approaching holidays.
Halloween can be the entrée to establishing new traditions and beginnings. Children love Halloween. And adults can be taken with its spell too. Halloween is not laden with the work and high expectations that can burden Thanksgiving and Christmas: no perfect pies to be made, perfectly-stuffed turkeys to be roasted, perfect presents to be purchased, perfectly-shaped trees to be decorated, perfect handmade menorahs to be lit, perfect and extravagant meals to be planned, perfect seating plans to be designed, or perfect cards to be sent. A perfect Halloween can be spontaneous and fun. The preparation that overwhelms the subsequent November and December celebrations is part of the Halloween celebration itself: picking out and carving the pumpkin is just as much fun as seeing the finished jack-o-lantern; planning the costume is just as much fun as wearing it; selecting the treats is just as much fun as passing them out or (maybe) eating them.
While many experience sadness during the holidays, divorced families or those in the process of divorcing are particularly vulnerable to sorrow during these occasions of high expectations. Freed Marcroft wishes you a Happy Halloween free of fears for the future and ghosts of celebrations past. We encourage you to carve out your new rituals beginning with the pumpkins and costumes and candy of Halloween. The confidence and joy you could feel in October might help ease the anxiety you may feel as the November and December holidays approach.