By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
When your spouse can’t be with you during the holidays, nothing is the same. You try to be cheerful for your kids and extended family members, but the whole time, you’re missing your significant other and wishing they were there.
Whether your spouse is in the military, has a job that requires travel, or is a shift worker like mine, navigating the holidays without them doesn’t get any easier. The good thing is there are things you can do to prepare for the missed holiday, join others in the same situation, and rely on God’s strength to help you through. So, if you’re missing your spouse this holiday season, I pray this post will be a helpful encouragement to you.
Prepare Well in Advance
Unforeseen schedule changes are the worst when it comes to missed holidays. Many times over the years, my husband’s shifts were rearranged, which totally threw off our holiday schedule. Unfortunately, my first reaction was usually frustration, but I eventually learned to be flexible and prepare myself in advance. Here are a few ways you can prepare yourself for missed events:
-Keep a family calendar with clearly marked workdays and alternate holiday schedules.
-Communicate frequently about possible shift changes so you can pivot when necessary.
-Ask extended family members to remain flexible and be willing to celebrate on different days.
-Pray for God’s help to accept the missed holiday with grace and peace.
While we can’t prepare for everything 100% of the time, we can trust the Lord to help us cope. In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” This is a powerful verse to take with us when we’re missing our spouses during the holidays. Truly, Jesus is our peace - a peace that surpasses all understanding - and He will give us joy despite our circumstances.
Here’s another helpful post titled 5 Healthy Ways to Handle Disappointment.
Talk About What Bothers You Most
For many years, I didn’t handle my husband’s shift work well. I was moody and silent, often making him feel terrible about something he had no control over. When we finally had a serious discussion about his job, and I was able to share what bothered me most, I was surprised to hear his side of things and see things from a different point of view.
What a world of difference this made in our marriage moving forward! I felt a heavy weight lift from my shoulders that day, even though his shift work hadn’t changed. From that point on, I was able to navigate missed holidays far better than before.
Sometimes, it just takes a few heart-to-heart conversations to help us understand what the other one is feeling. When we’re willing to listen - really listen - we find that our spouses truly do care about missed holidays and will do whatever it takes to ensure the family has a meaningful celebration.
Here are a few conversation starters that might help you and your spouse communicate:
“The thing that bothers me most about you missing the holiday is…”
“Would you ever consider finding a new career that allows holidays off?”
“How can I better support you when you’re away from us?”
“What are some things we can put in place to make the holiday season easier for everyone?”
If you’re struggling to communicate with your spouse, don’t hesitate to reach out for wise counsel. Even talking with another couple who has dealt with missed holidays can help you feel heard and supported. Most of all, pray together for God’s wisdom, knowing He will give it.
Here are a few helpful posts for communication in marriage:
Join Other Families in the Same Boat
There are likely many people in your community who are also missing a spouse this holiday season. Chances are, they could use your support during this difficult time. Reach out and try to find families who are in the same boat, whether it be through your church’s small groups, work connections, or military support groups.
Finding your tribe can help fill in the gaps and those people can be there to celebrate with you during the most important times of the year. When you have a community of people who know exactly what you’re going through, there’s a measure of comfort and assurance that you’re not alone in your struggle.
You might even consider starting your own ministry for families that are separated during the holidays. Imagine the impact you could have as you bless others with support and camaraderie, while also gaining new friendships along the way.
Here is an encouraging post titled 17 Ways Christians Can Give Back this Christmas.
Don’t Blame Yourself
It used to be when my husband would miss an important event, I felt the need to apologize to our extended family members. I carried unnecessary blame that only added to my stress. But once I realized I didn’t need to blame myself or apologize for my husband’s absence, I felt more freedom to celebrate in whatever capacity I could.
The truth is not everyone will understand your spouse’s absence. Families who have never been apart during the holidays probably won’t be as empathetic as others, and that’s okay. The important thing to remember is it’s not your fault. It is what it is, and you have no control over your husband’s schedule.
You’ll enjoy your family gatherings a lot more when you let go of false guilt and stop apologizing for things you can’t control. Remember 1 Peter 5:7, which says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” The Lord knows just what to do with all the “feels” that come along with missed holidays, and you can trust Him to handle it!
Offer as Much Grace as You Can
As I mentioned before, I didn’t always handle my husband’s work schedule with grace. Many times, I let anger govern my attitude, but it never once made the situation better. Now that I’ve experienced more than 30 years of handling missed holidays, I’ve come to understand that offering grace is far better than harboring anger.
The bottom line is I know my husband WANTS to be with us for every holiday. I also know that he has worked long, hard hours without complaint to provide well for our family. Therefore, my goal is to offer him as much grace as I can, as often as I can. If that means we celebrate Christmas on the 20th instead of the 25th, I accept that with love and grace.
I can’t emphasize enough how a “grace” mindset has worked wonders for us over the last few years. It has relieved the pressure of trying to make things work the way I want them to. It has lightened my husband’s load and relieved him from unnecessary pressure. And it has been a reminder of the grace God gives us day after day.
If you’re missing your spouse during the holidays this year, I hope you’ve been deeply encouraged today. It’s certainly not easy, but with a strong, supportive community, and faith that God will help you through, you’ll face the holidays with a renewed attitude of grace, joy, and hope.
Here are more helpful resources for your journey:
Photo Credit: ©Rodion Kutsaev/Unsplash
Jennifer Waddle is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.