This is the first Thanksgiving I won’t be with my son. I’m ditching the turkey for a weekend getaway in the Florida Keys.

When I was growing up, my family didn’t take most holidays. So when I started celebrating them on my own in adulthood, I was like a kid tasting ice cream for the first time.

The novelty and excitement never faded. For more than a decade it has hosted Thanksgiving dinners, baking maple and pumpkin caramel apple and bourbon pecan pies from scratch; roasting a turkey stuffed with butter and stuffed with herbs; and perfecting béchamel for macaroni and cheese. Today it has become a soul-satisfying ritual of indulgence.

But this year will be different.

My son will be with his father

For the first time in 13 years, I’m single, and my only son will be with his dad this Thanksgiving.

Last year, we had a fresh breakup, and we celebrated together — awkwardly. It is a strange feeling to be a visitor in your old home; Over a year later, I still feel uncomfortable in there.

I knew it was time to move on, to start new traditions – but I’m still rebuilding, my circle is small. Instead of finding a friend’s Thanksgiving special, I’m spending the weekend with my ex-therapist in the Florida Keys.

I realized I needed to break things off with my son’s father

Over the past few decades, I’ve seen a series of therapists attempt to attribute my condolences to anything but its actual source. Every time I get inches closer to the truth. But I was terrified of admitting that my marriage didn’t work out.

Even when I finally accepted reality, I was too afraid to do anything about it. But the pressure of acting like everything was good — when everything else was — was exhausting. I was numb, detached from my feelings, living a life that seemed like a lie.

Rubber hit the road during the pandemic. I felt like I was slowly disappearing and that if I didn’t make a change there would be nothing left of me. But even if I wanted to leave then, there would be nowhere for me to go. In a new state with no connections, I walked outside alone for hours each day introspectively.

My therapist and I became friends

In the end, I forwarded details of the same old dilemma to a new therapist. Until then, I had been convincing myself to stay on the path to keep my family together. But this time there was a shift. After a few sessions, I realized I had done all the talking I needed to do. It’s time to come up with an exit plan.

It is no longer a relief to have to keep working. But my heart broke – and continues to break – for my son, whose world has been turned upside down. My marriage broke up for a while, and I knew that affected my child, too. Up until that point, I had been convincing myself that staying married was best for my son, but that is no longer true. Building an unhealthy relationship for him was not the right choice.

I told my therapist over the phone of my decision as I packed up — one foot in my old life and one in my new one. While we discussed the way forward, she shared some details about her divorce. The similarities between our experiences were uncanny.

That was when I knew our paths had crossed for some reason. I asked if we could end our professional relationship and be friends. She didn’t hesitate to say, “Let’s do it!”

On this journey to see where I belong, I am so grateful to have her in my corner.


Tricare west is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

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