The holidays are upon us, and for the newly divorced, or those in the process of a divorce, coping with the holidays can be a bit rough emotionally. Even if you were the one who initiated the divorce, the changes in your life can take an emotional toll during the holidays. You may be feeling nostalgic about the way things used to be and missing those times, or you might be feeling resentful because your life has been changed dramatically. Whichever is the case, the holidays can magnify those feelings.
If there are children involved, this can be even more difficult, because they will want assurances that there is some semblance of stability in their lives. They need to know that holiday celebrations will continue, albeit in a different way.
Make a Plan
Plan to spend time with those you truly care about, (and who care about you!) and try to make this time of year as stress free as possible. This is not the time to be alone, sitting in your barely furnished apartment alone eating out of a can.
If there are just too many memories haunting you, perhaps getting away to a different place will distract you and you can avoid those triggers. A change of scenery is always good for the soul.
Simplify! If you were the one who usually did all the holiday cooking, ask family and friends to help you out and bring a dish or dessert. Entertaining can be a huge stressor, and you need to minimize the amount of stress you are putting on yourself. Remember, even Martha Stewart has a full staff of assistants to help her!
Make a list of what you need to accomplish and a target date; this will keep you organized and in control of the circumstances, which diminishes stress.
Put The Children First
This is not the time to be arguing with your ex over time-sharing or who is getting what gifts for the children. Decide ahead of time what the schedule will be, and make sure the children know you will be okay while they are with the other parent. Don’t create additional stress on them during this time, as they are probably apprehensive too. (Read more)
Assure your children that the holidays will be just as special, but perhaps different. Start new holiday traditions – get their help in forming these and they will really be invested. Keep some of the traditions if you like, but embrace the new life and new traditions.
The excitement this time of year evokes can create over tired and cranky kids in the best of times – be prepared for the children to perhaps act out a bit or put a monkey wrench into your best laid plans. Be flexible here – they are experiencing their first holidays with the new reality, and it might be tough on them as well as you.
Be patient with yourself, the children, your family, even your ex . It takes a bit of time for everyone to adjust to this new existence. Don’t try to create that “picture perfect holiday” (does that even exist outside of the movies and television?!) because that is creating unrealistic expectations. You cannot possibly live up to that expectation – no one can- so don’t put that burden on yourself.
Take Good Care of Yourself
You need to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and if possible, pamper yourself a bit. When the children are with the other parent, make time to see friends or family you don’t often get a chance to, or get a massage, or do something just for you.
Be Nice to Your Ex
No matter the circumstances that led to your divorce, this is the time to be cordial to your former spouse. It is the best gift you can give to your children, as they will be relieved not to be the center of a tug of war, and it will give them that sense of stability. Even if in your mind you are still raging at them, put it on the back burner.
Many people find that helping others is a tonic for the holiday blues. Find a charity or cause where you can donate your time and energy. This keeps you busy, gets you outside yourself and helps those less fortunate. Sometimes that perspective is all you need to discover that your circumstances maybe aren’t so bad. It is a win-win situation, and you will feel especially good about helping others. There are many organizations which will gladly accept your help!
Doing for others is also a great example to your children, and your situation will certainly look better after seeing those in less fortunate circumstances.
Ask For Help!
Don’t be afraid to admit that you are struggling with the prospect of the holidays. Let your family and friends know so they can be there for you. Ask for what you need – a sounding board, a mentor or simply someone to spend time with you.
If you are feeling completely overwhelmed and anxious, or unbearably sad and these coping strategies aren’t working, consider seeking some professional counseling. The counselors are well versed in helping people with these issues, and can help immensely. They provide a safe, supportive atmosphere for expressing your concerns, and can provide tools which can help you cope.
It Will Get Better
Try to keep in mind that this is a transitory phase of your life, and as time goes by the holidays will be something to look forward to again. You will cherish the new traditions as much as you did the old ones. The situation that is so brand new will become the norm. Remember that the holidays are a time for family, faith and fellowship, and that focus should be your priority, even if the family is in transition. Think about all the things that are good in your life, and perhaps you will find that you can approach the holidays not with apprehension, but with joy.
Learn more on how to cope with divorce here.