3 Tips for Surviving the Holidays Post-Divorce

By: Andra Brosh, Ph.D.
Last Update: October 29, 2016

 Holidays are always a tough time when transitioning through divorce. As the winter holidays fast approach, you may be feeling a sense of panic or dread. Holidays trigger nostalgic feelings about past celebrations, and the open-ended amount of time you once loved may now feel like a black hole. The loss of a spouse, friends, and not having your children due to your divorce can compound the issue.

One of the first steps in surviving the holidays after divorce is to be realistic about how it will go. Expect to feel sad if your divorce is something you’re still adjusting to. No one is saying you need to go out every night or have some crazy sense of holiday cheer when you just feel like staying in bed. The flip side to that would be a feeling of guilt for not being more upset. Sometimes it’s a relief to be out of a marriage, and the holidays may be something you’re really looking forward to celebrating as a newly unmarried person. 

Regardless of your circumstance, there are a few things you can do to help the season go more smoothly as you move into this new phase of your life. Remember that you are in control of your own happiness, and you always have the power to make healing and healthy choices for yourself. Here are three simple tips to help you through the holiday season.

1. Plan ahead
Take control of your calendar and put activities on it that you can do with or without someone. This is particularly true for the season of parties and New Years Eve. Use the Internet to search out happenings around town, put your feelers out early, and don’t be afraid to do something a bit out of the ordinary. This is an opportunity to empower yourself to be in charge of your own happiness and fulfillment, which is something all divorced people have to get comfortable with. There can be great opportunities for quick road trips on days with no traffic, hikes in nature or movie marathons. Whatever feeds your soul and allows you to feel good.

2. Reach Out
Waiting to be invited places is the social equivalent of mind reading. You cannot will people to invite you just by thinking, you have to take action. Send out an email or a Facebook post asking what others are up to. You will gain new information, and put yourself on the holiday social map. Many people might presume you’re not up for it or that you have plans. You’d be surprised by how many people feel just like you and are equally as uncertain about what they can or want to do for the holiday.You may even want to take on hosting your own party or gathering so you can ensure being in a comfortable situation.

3. Think Positively
Your own thoughts are powerful and they can definitely bring you down. The power of positive thinking can come in the form of gratitude, affirmations or self-compassion. If you’re thinking, "I miss my kids" or "I'm such a loser for being all alone on the holidays,” you'll feel bad. If you can reframe your thoughts and center them around what you have, you're more likely to stay in good spirits. Remember, the positives of divorce like extra free time, no one to be accountable to, and maybe even staying out late because you don’t have to rush home to get kids to bed. Thinking positively is hard work, but it will lift your spirits and keep you from becoming a victim of the circumstances of your life (and your ex).

Remember that your divorce is a transition and not a way of life. No matter where you are in the process of divorce, you still deserve to have a full life and enjoy your holiday in any way you choose. You are in the process of restructuring and re-evaluating all aspects of your life, so this is a time of experimentation and exploration. There are not right or wrong ways of doing things, so just be open, have fun, and learn from experience. 

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