The holidays can be a tough time after divorce and it’s easy to develop a victim mentality and to feel blue – especially if you’re not able to spend holidays with your children or family.
Truth be told, a divorce can shake your foundation and make you question your own judgment.
You might find yourself second-guessing yourself and feeling sad over the holidays if you’re recently divorced or separated from your children, even for a short period of time.
The trauma of going through a divorce can change your perceptions and can alter your feelings about relationships and expectations for your future. No one gets married with the intention of getting a divorce so you might find yourself ruminating about what went wrong.
Now, in the midst of a breakup, your brain is being rewired and reconnecting with the world in new ways. How you choose to do this is up to you. It’s an exciting time with all sorts of possibilities.
There are a lot of feelings and emotions that come with divorce – anger, betrayal, despair, guilt, rejection, uselessness, fear, elation – and they all go with the territory. You may feel confused as you establish your new identity and move on to develop new relationships.
However, you can gain some control over your emotions by challenging self-defeating thoughts and substituting negative ones with positive ones. The world as you have come to know and experience it is suddenly turned upside down and it’s important to focus on positive things and let go of the negative thoughts that keep you from enjoying life.
It might be a good idea to seek out a therapist or support group if you need assistance in doing this.
4 Ways to Put the “Happy” Back into the Holidays After Divorce
Knowing that you’re not alone and that many divorced people struggle over the holidays can bring you peace during times of turmoil. Also, practice self-compassion which means being good to yourself. Take a little longer in the shower or buy yourself a fresh cup of coffee or tea at your favorite café a couple of times a week!
Erik, 52, and a newly divorced dad with two teenage boys who rotate holidays between their parent’s homes reflect: “Sure I miss my boys when they don’t spend Christmas with me, but I try to remember that it will get easier as they get older. They love their mom and they need their time with her too.”
- Don’t play the role of victim and accept it will get easier over time. Further, you can control your reactions to loss by substituting positive self-talk for negative. For instance, rather than telling yourself that life has dealt you a bad hand you can tell yourself “I am getting better at coping with my loss every day and can face the challenges that come my way.”
- Explore new traditions over the holidays for yourself. For instance, volunteer at a soup kitchen, visit a friend whom you have not seen for a while, cook a special meal, go to the gym, or binge-watch your favorite holiday movies.
- Develop a positive mindset and attitude about the holidays. Remember that spending time with your family and friends doing fun activities can be rewarding during the holiday season. Go to the movies, take a walk, or enjoy a steaming cup of hot cocoa by yourself or with a friend.
- Remember to laugh. Laughter is one of the best ways to change a negative mood to a positive one. Take time out of every day to de-stress by doing things that you all enjoy: listen to music, work on a puzzle, take your kids tobogganing or to the beach (depending on where you live), or participate in other fun activities.
The holiday season doesn’t have to be a time of stress overload. Most of all, remember to keep the focus on what is most important – giving back to those who have supported you and healing from your divorce. In fact, your heartbreaks can teach you many things. As you accept your losses, you will be better able to face being alone and to make it another meaningful chapter in your life.
Terry’s books – Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup, and The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around – are both available via her website. www.movingpastdivorce.com