If you are a military spouse then you have probably spent your fair share of holidays apart from your spouse. Our first Thanksgiving married was celebrated via Skype, and to this day, we still have yet to spend a single Halloween together! The separation can be especially difficult if it occurs over Christmas. It’s hard being apart for any holiday. But at least none of the others have songs playing in every store about “being home” during them. You probably already have a set of Christmas traditions, but consider adding in a new one to mix things up during separation.
1. Decorate your tree with red, white, and blue ornaments and lights.
One of my friends does this when her husband deploys, and I think it’s such a good idea. Decorating patriotically can serve as a constant reminder for “why” you are both enduring holiday separation. While the tree can primarily be covered in red, white, and blue, I think a yellow ribbon in place of the star wouldn’t be out of place!
2. Set up a mini-tree instead.
When we were apart during the holidays, it was too hard to try to set up our Christmas tree as if everything was normal. Because it wasn’t. At the same time, having a bare house when the entire town was fancied up was depressing. A good balance for me was making my house feel Christmasy without setting up the way we usually did together, with all the special ornaments and the family tree.
3. Find someone who is having a rougher Christmas than you and help them out.
This is definitely not a case of misery-loves-company. It can cheer you up to help someone else, and remind yourself that you don’t have it all that bad. Of course its lonely to be apart during Christmas. But you have the rest of your lives to spend together once he returns home! There are others though who are expecting to have a rough Christmas, whether that’s because they are homeless or terminally ill or abandoned, and they aren’t necessarily looking forward to better years in the future. You have all the Christmases of the future to look forward to, but they might not.
4) Begin a new Christmas decoration tradition.
We all have our own way of decorating each year–whether that be a manager scene or a nutcracker collection. But consider changing or adding to your collection something new. Put yellow-ribboned wreaths on each window, or buy a soldier santa for your front lawn. There are many, many, many military-themed Christmas decorations. Collecting nutcrackers was a good way for me to add a bunch of soldiers to my decor. If all else fails, there is nothing more classic than a Christmas wreath for your front door that shows off your patriotism.
5) Save Christmas for when he returns.
As an Army brat, growing up we often didn’t celebrate holidays on the day they were supposed to be celebrated, if it meant leaving my dad out of it. Consider opening a few handmade gifts with your children, or with family if you have any visiting. But save the “real” Christmas present exchange between you and your spouse for when he is home! It’s just as fun as the real Christmas Day celebration, I promise.
At the end of the day, being alone for Christmas is hard. And even though familiarity is comforting, don’t try to make the holiday be exactly like it was on the other years. It’s going to be different, and so embrace it and make it so. Even though it’s really hard being “left behind,” think about your loved one who doesn’t even get to be home for Christmas. No matter what kind of separation you are enduring, try to make your soldier a part of the day. Call, video chat, or even just write a long in-depth “Christmas edition” letter. Any way you can feel connected during the time apart is a good thing. And remember, next year, you won’t be spending it apart!