Divorce and the Holidays

The refrain “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” may ring hollow if you’re no longer married. In fact, the holidays may feel like real turkey days – if you get my drift. So, how do you manage divorce and the holidays?

Coping with separation, divorce and loss is magnified by the holiday season.Lots of people feel overwhelmed by the stresses and strains of trying “keep it together,” when their sky is falling all around them.  The holidays serve as a constant reminder of happier, more festive times that are overshadowed by the cold reality of new found loneliness and despair. While friends and other family members are gearing up for a festive season, a newly separated or divorced person approaches this time of year with panic, sadness, and, yes – dread.

How Not to Have a Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas

Plan to do something that is fun, relaxing, and as stress-free as possible. Gather with people you really care about (and care about you).  If Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and Christmas are too much to bear, skip town. Go on a mini vacation somewhere, even if it’s off to the movies by yourself. Concentrating on you can be the best gift you give yourself.

Create new rituals for the holidays – replace old family traditions with new ones. Instead of going to see the Nutcracker like every year you were married, go to a football game instead, for instance.

What About the Kids?

Kids love the holidays. The tinsel, the presents, the fanfare. After a divorce they may be afraid all of that is going away. You must reassure them that these celebrations will continue, but with a different spin. Involve them in planning special celebrations around your new family dynamic.

Also, where the young ones are concerned, it’s important to develop a schedule for the holidays. Will they be with Dad for Thanksgiving and Mom for Christmas? Which parent will host Hanukkah? Will the ex be involved in the observances?

There is no Such Thing as a Perfect Holiday

Even among married couples and their families, there are snafus with holiday celebrations. Being divorced doesn’t make them easier, just different. You have to have realistic expectations of how the holidays will go – especially in the first year after a divorce. Be assured, though, things will settle down over the days and months and years ahead and new traditions will arise that just might feel like tried and true ones. The important thing is to give yourself a break. Holidays are hard. Divorces are hard. Together they don’t add up to easy. Concentrate on little things, a little at a time. Don’t try to do too much too soon. It’s OK to say “I need to chill out this holiday as I settle into my new life.”

Time Really Does Heal

One day at a time, one meal at a time, one party at a time, it will get better, and the natural hurt and longing you feel will improve. The next time you see a portly man in a white fur trimmed red suit, notice his attitude. Think your family is dysfunctional? Imagine seven flying reindeer with diva complexes and a tighter than a drum schedule.

It’s not so bad when you think about it.


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