Preparing for Your First Solo Post-Divorce Thanksgiving

Whether you are separated or newly divorced, will this year mark the first Thanksgiving you will be celebrating without your spouse? Depending on your circumstances, you may be feeling relieved at not needing to “fake it” through another meal with your in-laws, sad and angry over the change in your cherished family traditions, unsure about what to expect when you show up at your parents’ house without your spouse…or some mix of all these things.

Of course, it’s also normal to feel lonely, even if you are at peace with the reasons why you decided to get a divorce. What can you do to make this Thanksgiving a day you’ll look back and be thankful for? Here are some tried-and-true tips…

Don’t Feel Guilty: If you don’t want to spend Thanksgiving dinner explaining to your great aunt why your marriage didn’t work out, it’s okay to give yourself permission not to. In deciding what to do on Thanksgiving, weigh your options and make decisions based on what’s going to make you feel happiest. If this means skipping dinner with your family and attending the “singles Thanksgiving” your unattached friends are planning, changing things up this year may be just what you need.

Distract Yourself: Like it or not, more and more stores and restaurants are open on Thanksgiving, which means for people looking for somewhere to go just to get out the house, you will have ample places to choose from. Pick up a few comedy movies while you’re out — or get a jump on this year’s holiday shopping.

Exercise: Turkey Trot running races and fun runs take place all over New Jersey on Thanksgiving morning, so why not lace up your sneakers and go? Many raise funds for a good cause, and the big bonus if you’re trying to make it through Turkey Day solo: running, or any form of exercise, is a natural endorphin booster that’s help improve mood and ward off depression.

Volunteer: Spend the day helping others in need and chances are you will give yourself something to be very grateful for this Thanksgiving. In NJ, Thanksgiving day volunteer opportunities can be found through organizations including Jersey Cares and Central Food Bank of NJ.

Keep Your Kids In Mind: If you and your children will spend Thanksgiving alone after years of big family gatherings, understand that they might feel confused or need help getting through the day. You can still make your meal together special by setting out a table cloth, using the “good” dishes and filling the kitchen with the familiar scents of pumpkin pie and roasted turkey. Depending on your circumstances, having kids call or Skype with their other parent might be helpful, as can inviting over friends or nearby relatives to celebrate.

There’s also the proposition of keeping your holidays intact for your children’s sake. If you normally drove three hours to your ex-spouse’s parents’ house to have dinner, could you all still do this, even if you arrive in a separate car? No, this won’t work for all families, but if it’s something that you might even see a glimmer of hope to work out, it’s worth discussing. For your kids, seeing this kind of cohesiveness can be a powerful way to make the transition to two households a more positive experience.

What are your plans for this Thanksgiving?