There’s nothing quite like the holiday season, with its emphasis on family togetherness, to make a newly divorced person feel alone in a strange, post-divorce land. Everything feels different. You may not have the time nor desire to deck the halls or you’re worried about letting your kids down if you can’t afford the biggest tree or stuffed-to-the brim stockings. And you’re sad about all the traditions that won’t take place this year.
While it’s normal to feel a surge of grief around the holidays, you don’t have to let anger, sadness, and denial spoil the season. The best way to manage a blue Christmas is to acknowledge what you’re missing and focus on what you’ve got.
Problem: Lost traditions. Reduced finances and custody arrangements can change the way you celebrate – or even your inclination to celebrate. You may feel like Christmas isn’t Christmas without sitting down to prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, or being woken by your kids at dawn to open presents. As wonderful as those memories are, it’s time to make new ones. Trying to recreate traditions you can no longer afford or fit into your schedule will just make you feel worse.
Solution: Take advantage of this opportunity to create new traditions. If you dread interrupting the flow of Christmas with a midday hand-off, consider celebrating on Christmas Eve. Can’t swing the plane ticket to visit Grandma with the kids this year? Try Skyping with her during Christmas dinner.
Problem: Missing your kids. Handing off your kids during Christmas Day, or for half of winter break, can make “the most wonderful time of the year” feel like the loneliest. Before you descend into a pit of nostalgia, recognize that your former yuletides may not have been as rosy as you remember – especially if your kids were soaking up conflict between you and your then-spouse.
Solution: Instead of dreading time apart from your kids, make the most of it! Do things you wouldn’t have time to do otherwise. Focus on self-care, scratch off items on your to-do list, plan a weekend getaway with friends, or just yourself. Being a single parent is exhausting, so relish your down time. You may also be able to get a little more time with your kids with these tips. Read 6 Ways to Get More Time with Your Kids Over the Holidays for tips on negotiating extra parenting time.
Problem: Feeling like a “minus-one.” Going to holiday parties alone and opening dozens of Christmas cards featuring beaming couples can make you feel terminally single. It’s normal to grieve the loss of a partnership, even if you no longer love your partner. Understand, however, that you probably don’t really miss the partnership you had; you miss your former identity.
Solution: Work on your relationship with yourself. If you spent years in a loveless marriage, your self-esteem may be in tatters. Perhaps you had a spouse who made you feel you could do nothing right. Perhaps you regret your own behavior. Regardless of what happened in the past, now is the time to focus on personal growth. Spend your “alone” time this holiday season writing a personal mission statement. Clarify your values, set goals, and make sure your actions are in alignment. If you struggle with addiction and/or mental health issues, resolve to seek professional help in 2018.
Remember: your goal is not to avoid feeling loss, but to allow yourself to move through those emotions so you can focus on creating a new, meaningful life for yourself and your children.
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