The Holidays Can be a Painful Reminder of the Things You’ve Lost

The holidays can be stressful for all of us – but for the recently divorced, they bring a new set of painful challenges.

holidays can be a painful reminder

I’ve been divorced now for over two years. In that time, a lot has changed in my life – including holiday traditions.

The holidays are typically thought of as a time to celebrate with family and friends.

But after a divorce, you might find yourself with a whole new group of family and friends; or maybe with no one at all.

The holidays can be a painful reminder of the things you’ve lost.

I spent my first post-divorce Christmas at my aunt’s house in Olympia, Washington. My cousin and his wife were there too. I was glad to have some family members who lived nearby; they gave my Christmas some semblance of normalcy.

I spent the next year’s Thanksgiving with a friend I’d met on Instagram. She lived in Portland too, and we’d met up for a few drinks before the holidays. She invited me over for Thanksgiving dinner. It was just me, her, one of her other friends, and her cat – but again, it was nice to have somewhere to go.

Last year was the first Christmas I spent with my new girlfriend. She’s a holiday lover, and she forced me to go get a real tree and help her put it up and decorate it in her apartment. I say “forced” because, left to my own devices, I would never have gone through the hassle of getting a real tree. But it was fun to see it all lit up, and it made my Christmas merrier. We spent the holiday doing nothing but watching old movies and lounging around in our robes.

This year I’m doing pretty much the same thing. My girlfriend again insisted on getting a real tree. We drove it to her place tied (quite poorly) to the top of my car. Needles got all over the place, and my hands were sticky with sap, but it was worth it to see the look of joy on her face. Joy is infectious.

So, what is the point of my holiday article? I guess it’s as simple as this: traditions sometimes change. I used to always spend the holidays with my ex-wife’s family. I’m pretty sure that over the whole time I was married to her, we only spent one Christmas with my family. There was usually an airline flight involved and a lot of stress. Go, go, go! I got used to that version of the holiday season, so it was odd to be able to do whatever I wanted for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now I’m making new traditions. I’m spending this holiday with a sweet, kind woman and her two cats (who are now sort of my cats; they seriously love me). We will hang out and watch movies, there will be no stress, and we won’t have to “go, go, go” in that frantic mode where my ex resides. Will this be my new holiday tradition forever? Who knows. But for now, at this moment, the holiday season is treating me pretty well. And I’m grateful for all the people who helped make those first post-divorce holidays bearable.

The holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s also a time when a lot of people feel depressed or stressed – or both! If divorce has altered your holiday traditions, find a way to make some new ones. Reach out to that friend you haven’t seen in a while – or go visit your family for once! The first few years will be hard, but over time you’ll develop new holiday traditions. I never thought mine would involve a new woman, old movies, bathrobes, and two cats—but here I am. And it’s not bad at all.

Happy holidays, readers!

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