Divorce Holiday Survival Guide: How to Get Through the Holidays If You're Newly Divorced
Recovering from any sort of loss or heartache can be especially difficult around the holidays. For many of us, the holidays can feel dark, lonely, and stressful — especially if we are going through divorce and holiday dread. At a time when family and friends get together to celebrate, the holiday season can be a painful reminder of what was, what will never be, and who is not here anymore.
There’s nothing like the holidays to make a newly divorced or separated person feel disconnected and lonely. Everywhere you turn, you’re reminded of your new status. Instead of looking forward to the beautiful decorations, the smell of baking pies, and holiday songs on the radio, these things can trigger sadness as the pain of the lost relationship resurfaces.
Moving on after divorce doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the holidays, but it requires good planning, a positive attitude and most importantly, realistic expectations. Experiencing the regret, loss, hurt and pain is normal at certain times of the year, especially anniversaries and holidays.
There’s no way to avoid being exposed to the ads, the TV shows, billboards and messages that highlight this “most wonderful time of year”, short of never going out of your house and not looking at any media.
So give yourself an early holiday gift and let go of your self-consciousness. Instead, start thinking of ways to make the most out of this holiday season. What follows are several healthy ways to cope with divorce and the holidays, and still remain a huge part of your children’s lives.
And keep in mind that it’s ok to take some much-needed solo time for everything from reflection to self-care to socializing with friends.
Divorce Holiday Survival Guide - 10 Tips
1. Don't Stay Home Alone
If you need one day of doing so, take a day. But, surrounding yourself with friends—the ones you can be real with—and supportive family, will feel much better than consistent isolation. Plan ahead with people you might call in a time of need, and make social plans in advance so you have a reason to get out.
Don't be shy. Extend invitations to others: co-workers, old friends, other divorcees. Find a support group or, better yet, volunteer. Filling the holidays with people will leave you feeling better connected to the folks around you, and less lonely.
Get the word out that you’re going to be alone. You might be surprised by the invitations you receive. Whether it’s a friend inviting you to her big family shindig or a fellow single who needs some companionship, embrace the offers. They are symbols of love and caring.
2. Avoid the Ghosts of Holidays Past
Don't visit places where you have created holiday memories with your ex. This isn't the time to reminisce; it's the time to begin building fresh, fun, brand new memories.
3. Share the Joy (and the Kids)
Nothing makes the holidays better than the sounds of children: laughing, shouting, tearing open gifts. Plan for the kids to spend time with both you and your ex. A well-planned visitation schedule will make all the difference.
And, when you have to see your ex, remember the most important gift of all: Don't put your children in the crossfire. The holidays are harder for them than they are for you. By focusing on making their holidays bright, familiar, and cheerful, you will undoubtedly find yourself partaking in some of their holiday joy as well.
4. Take your own Holiday Vacation, You’ve Earned it!
Taking a vacation will give you the opportunity to relax and forget about all the drama and difficulty that came with your divorce and separation. And if your finances aren't full enough for a flight, take a vacation in your hometown. Visit a museum. Go to a holiday market. Rent a hotel room. Shop. Go on a retreat. Spend the holidays nurturing your spirit at a yoga or spa retreat. You'd be surprised how much a few days away can give you some perspective.
5. Make a New Year's Resolution -- Or Several
Take up a new sport, join a new club, meet new people and put yourself back out there. Giving to others is a tried and true way of taking the focus off your own problems. Babysit a dog, volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter, or surprise a sad neighbor with a basket of goodies.
Nothing on this planet will chase away the woes like doing a good deed. And, most importantly, count your blessings.
No matter how bad the divorce and or break up was, you still have things to be thankful for.
6. Validate Your Difficulty
Do yourself a favor and validate that this may be difficult, maybe even really difficult. But also tell yourself that you can and will get through it.
7. Establish Boundaries
Setting boundaries (what you will and will not do) is always important for maintaining your emotional and relational health. Start by sharing your preferences with your friends, family, and even your ex (if you are still in contact). This will help your family and friends be sensitive to your needs at this time.
8. Create New Traditions
For example, cook a special holiday meal, visit the family you were not able to visit because you historically visited your in-laws, or plan a social gathering with friends.
9. Have a “Plan B”
Even the best-laid plans go awry. You might feel you are ready for the big family gathering, but when you get there you find you feel suffocated with questions and tilted, nodding heads trying to support you. Identify a family member or friend to save you from such sympathetic misery. Have a back-up plan so if you need to leave, you can, but won’t go home to cry in your eggnog all by yourself.
10. Take a social media sabbatical
Studies show that when we’re already feeling down, scrolling through Facebook can make us feel worse. Comparison is the thief of joy as the saying goes, and you might be better off skipping the endless stream of carefully staged holiday photos from friends. Divorce and social media do not go well together. Delete the app from your phone and enjoy a few Facebook-free days.
Shaking off your loneliness and reclaiming the holidays are all about taking care of yourself for a change. Kick those unrealistic expectations to the curb and ignore the selective memory that plays tricks on you.
You will create new memories, new traditions, and feel stronger that you got through this, overcame it, and reached the other side. What you do now is entirely up to you. I encourage you to make the best of it, regardless of divorce and holiday dread or how mad you are or how much it hurts to see so much change.
Also, keep in mind that the first year is often the hardest (especially for those who did not want the split) but, for most people, each year that passes is easier and easier. The good news is you’ll survive. The better news is that so will your kids.
Take Control of Your Future
Whether relocating after a divorce is by choice or not, our team will help you plan for your move while keeping your financial well-being in mind. Kimberly Surber and Leslie Valant, both Certified Divorce Financial Analysts® can guide you in your financial decisions that will help transition you to your new life in your new location successfully.
Both Kimberly and Leslie provide step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce issues, our team will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset, and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for seeking legal advice from an attorney. For legal or tax advice please seek the services of a qualified attorney and/or qualified tax professional.