Facing the Holidays after a Divorce

The holidays are the most festive time of the year, but they can also be among the most stressful times. This is especially true for those who are experiencing their first holiday after a divorce. When you were married, there were probably a lot of holiday activities that you did together as a family. But now that you are single, that has all changed.

This can create feelings of sadness about what you have lost along with anxiety about the uncertainty of what it will be like spending the holidays on your own. There might also be some guilt about your children and the fact that they will miss out on the traditions you have previously established and enjoyed together.

There is no doubt that after a divorce, the holidays will be different than they were when you were married. Things have to change, but this change does not have to be all bad. With the proper mindset and approach, you can find new ways to truly enjoy the season.

Here are some helpful tips for facing the holidays after a divorce:

Set Realistic Expectations

Getting divorced is a major life change, and you will definitely need some time to adjust to these changes. In the midst of all this, it would be unrealistic to expect that everything will go smoothly during the holiday season. There are scheduling issues to deal with, and there may be questions about which activities the kids will do with you and which activities they will do with your ex-spouse. These are uncharted waters, and you will probably need at least a year or two to figure all of this out. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The holidays don’t have to be “perfect”. If you set realistic expectations, it will help alleviate much of the stress that comes with this season.

Count your Blessings

Thanksgiving is the traditional kickoff of the holiday season, and this is always a good time to focus on all the reasons we have to be grateful. Even though you are divorced, you can always find a lot of things to be thankful for. Examples may include good health, a roof over your head, food on your table, gainful employment, and numerous people in your life that love you and care about you. Remember also that, no matter how bad your circumstances are, there are billions of people in the world who would gladly trade places with you, even on your worst day.

Do Not Dwell Too Much on the Past

It is natural to become nostalgic about all the great times you’ve had with your family in years past. We all like to look back on the “good ole days” with fondness, and there is a place for that. But at the same time, it would be wise not to spend too much time trying to relive days gone by. Remember the line from the old Billy Joel song Keeping the Faith, “the good ole days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

Start New Holiday Traditions

Some of the past holiday traditions you’ve grown to love are gone, and they may never come back. This is a great loss that you should grieve, but at the same time, this could also be turned into an opportunity to start some great new traditions. Maybe there are things you have always wanted to do that you put on the back burner because your spouse wasn’t interested in them. Well, now is the time to act on these ideas.

Here are some ideas for new holiday traditions you might want to start:

  • Go out to a movie on Christmas day;
  • Go hiking or enjoy other outdoor activities;
  • Connect with family members and friends you have not seen for a while;
  • Take a fun trip out of town with some of your closest friends;
  • Go “all out” with holiday decorations in your home;
  • Take a drive around town to look at all of the holiday lights;
  • Become a tourist in your own town and visit some of the local historical sites;
  • Create holiday cards to send to the elderly and/or children in the hospital;
  • Create care packages to send to military families;
  • Catch up on some good books you’ve been meaning to read;
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter.

Work Cooperatively with Your Ex-Spouse for the Sake of the Kids

This season not the time to be stubborn or dig up old wounds between you and your ex-spouse. There are almost certainly unresolved issues between you and your ex, and you can probably find plenty of reasons to be mad about them. But the holidays are a time to put all this aside and do everything possible to work with your ex, especially if you have children. This does not mean you have to be a pushover, but you should try to be flexible with the inevitable scheduling conflicts that are likely to come up. The more you and your ex-spouse can cooperate, the better the holidays will be for everyone involved.

Give Yourself Permission to Enjoy the Holidays

As mentioned earlier, you may feel some guilt over the divorce, the part you may have played in it, and the fact that the family will no longer be together for holidays. This guilt might even be holding you back from really enjoying this season. But feeling bad about your situation will not do anything to improve it. What’s done is done, and it is all in the past now. Focus on the future and the wonderful new traditions you will be starting and give yourself permission to enjoy life again.

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