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Dec 21, 2018

Surviving the First Holiday Without Your Spouse

Future Post-Divorce

Sometimes, what are supposed to be happy occasions are instead times of sadness. This is especially true during the first holiday after your divorce. Being alone during a traditionally joyful time can amplify that sadness.

The distress and sadness can color how you experience the holiday. Traditions and routines you shared together are gone, making your loneliness even more painful. And when you observe family and friends celebrate together, it highlights your ‘aloneness’.

It’s a trying season. But don’t despair. Here are some ideas on coping.

There is no “Correct” Way to Celebrate

Movies and TV shows tell us how the holidays should be. As a result, we think we need to cook the perfect meal, host the perfect party, or buy the perfect gift and if we fail, then the holiday is ruined.

This is not reality. These are unrealistic expectations impossible to meet. If you are recently divorced or separated, that doesn’t mean that you now can’t celebrate the right way. Instead, free yourself from the whole idea of the perfect holiday. Think about trying something new. Decide what to do with the time that you have, and create your own idea of your perfect holiday. Consider taking yourself to a B&B for a night, volunteer at a soup kitchen, reconnect with old friends, visit a retirement home and make someone else’s holiday a little better.

Your Memory Can Betray You

If you’re newly divorced, you may reflect on the happy times you and your spouse had during past holidays. This rose-colored view of your marriage can add to your present unhappiness. Instead, recognize that there were not-so-great times as well, and that you now have a chance to find the joy in the current holiday season. By embracing the holidays now, you can reclaim them for yourself.

Consider What You’re Thankful For

It may seem especially cruel that your world is turned upside down in the middle of the normally-happy holidays. And it’s okay to feel upset. But try not to get swamped by negative thoughts.

Take time to note the good things you currently have in your life. Maybe you bought a toy for your children and are excited to see their faces when they open their presents. Or maybe your aunt is making your favorite meal at your annual gathering.

Use those positive thoughts to carry you through the season, no matter how small. Because isn’t counting your blessings part of what the holiday season is all about?

One Step at a Time

In our fast-paced world, even grieving feels rushed. And you might feel that you have to get over it and move on quickly or else you’ll never be able to enjoy the holidays. You might be full of holiday spirit one day and unwilling to leave the house the next.

Emotions are messy, and everyone heals at a different pace. Remember that this is a new experience for you, and you’ll need time to adjust. Be patient with yourself and realize that you’re healing at your own pace.

Use Mindfulness to Center Yourself

Even with our best efforts, the hectic holiday rush gets away from us. Mindfulness is a powerful tool that that helps you focus on the present. Instead of worrying about the future or obsessing over the past, use mindfulness to calm your racing mind. It allows you to live in the moment and stop feeling distracted by your own thoughts. Try to keep these tips in mind during the holidays, and let yourself enjoy the festivities,and enjoy them to the fullest.

©2018 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation

For more help on surviving divorce during the holidays, click these links:

Solo and Lonely at Christmas? Create Your Own ‘Snow Globe’ Vision of the Holiday

10 Ideas for Getting a Handle on Holiday Stress Post-Divorce

21 Tips to Survive Divorce and the Holidays

I Learned to Love the Holidays After Divorce, and This is How

Bring the Power of Mindfulness to Your Holidays