My ex and I separated in January which left me the entire year to worry about what the post-divorce Christmas season would mean for our children and me. I’m a lover of all things Christmas: the decorating, the food, and getting together with family and friends. The holidays had always been a time of celebration and family in our home.
What the heck would that first Christmas be like as a divorced, single mom who was feeling anything but the holiday “spirit?”
If you are divorced, Christmas may be a corner you aren’t looking forward to turning. Many people happily anticipate the holiday season, but for some, it is a period of loneliness, isolation, depression, conflict over visitation schedules, and more time thinking about an ex you don’t want to think about.
And that’s OK: it’s all right to have all the feelings above and then some. I promise, you are not alone, there are many out there dreading Christmas and all that comes along with it. Don’t get me wrong, though: just because it is OK to feel sad is no reason to wallow in the sadness.
If there is ever a time of year to put aside life’s stress it is during the holiday season. How do you get yourself out of your funk? One thing that has always worked for me is to let go of the guilt I take on over feeling less than festive.
It has been my experience that feeling bad about feeling bad only made me feel worse. It was like piling one more negative emotion to deal with on top of everything else. If you are divorced and feeling alone and in an a funk, you are experiencing normal feelings. Accept that it is fine to feel how you’re feeling; berating yourself over valid feelings doesn’t do anything except make you feel worse.
You need to also give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday season regardless of what kind of adversity you have or are experiencing. Feeling lonely and isolated doesn’t have to become a foregone conclusion. Just because you aren’t “feeling” the holiday season is no reason to immerse yourself in maudlin activities while others are out and about enjoying the holidays.
Here are a few suggestions that will hopefully help alleviate some stress and help you feel a bit more of the holiday spirit.
4 Tips to Help You Survive Your First Post-Divorce Christmas:
1. Don’t wait until the last minute to set up the holiday visitation schedule with your ex!
Get all those plans made by the end of October. Set them in stone! Know when, where, and whom your children will be with for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then put that stress aside. Get it taken care of then let it go.
2. Don’t feel obligated to participate in holiday activities that will make you feel sad or annoyed.
If you aren’t in the mood to be around nosy relatives, then make a different choice. Listening to Grandma’s complaints or having to answer your cousin’s questions about your divorce can be nerve-wracking. Be kind to your nerves and yourself!
3. Friends who supported you through your divorce, who know what you’ve been through, will also get you through the holiday season.
Spend time with people who are invested in helping you get the most out of life! Who better than close friends who don’t expect too much from you?
4. If you find yourself alone, remind yourself that you have a right to a good time.
I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone one year. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but now that I look back I realize that, although I was alone, it was one darn good time.
Being alone for the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t hang some ornaments on a tree or decorate the mantle. You don’t have to go all out and deck every hall but, bringing out reminders of the fact that it is a “time to be jolly” will be doing yourself a favor.
I purchased scented candles and the holiday scents waffled through the house. I baked Snicker Doodles; took a bubble bath while listening to Emmylou Harris’s “Light of the Stable.” I then watched chick flicks from a bed with clean, crisp sheets, and a plate of cookies and a glass of eggnog on the nightstand. I missed my children but I took the opportunity to give myself the gift of relaxation and pampering instead of ruminating over the fact I was alone and not doing exactly what I wanted to do.
Stress and negative feelings during the holidays can be difficult, but they don’t have to be debilitating. Making time to relax and do the things you enjoy is essential to keeping a balance. When the holidays finally arrive, remind yourself that you have as much right to a good time as anyone else, and relax and enjoy the occasion to the best of your ability. And whether you feel like it or not, you do have the ability to enjoy the holidays regardless of your situation.