While the holidays are supposed to be happy and jolly, for most of us, the holiday season seems to present a mixed picture, emotionally. Feelings of joy and belonging can be mixed with memories of disappointment and frustration over past holidays. Loneliness can unexpectedly land on us even while we are sitting in a room filled with loving relatives and friends. If you are divorcing or recently divorced, the range and intensity of emotion you may experience around the holidays can even be amplified a bit, due to all of the transitions taking place in your life.
Based on my years of experience working with clients considering, undergoing, or healing from divorce, I have discovered 5 helpful holiday hints to help you make it through (and hopefully even find some joy) this holiday season:
1. Acknowledge your feelings. It’s easy to get lost in all of the planning and preparation and busyness of the holidays. When undergoing or healing from a recent divorce, some people keep themselves extra busy so they won’t have time to feel their feelings. Unacknowledged feelings don’t go away, they just leak out at unexpected times or in unexpected ways or they can cause other complications and wreak havoc on our systems (and even make us sick!). It’s better to make some time to take a breath or two, to tune in with yourself and to feel what you are feeling. And, do know that it is ok to experience a whole range of emotions around the holidays from loneliness and some worries with regard to the future to a sense of relief and or even a bit of calm. And yes, you might find yourself just plain feeling everything a bit more than usual this first or second holiday season during or after your divorce transition. This is to be expected.
2. I encourage clients to do what I call “circle your wagons” which means to surround yourself and your children with the people who love you and whom you love this holiday season. If you can’t be together in person, reach out to the people who are supportive of you. Luckily, we enjoy new technologies these days that can help you ‘connect’ with those who may be far away geographically whenever you want…it gives a new meaning to ‘coming home for the holidays!’
Also, make sure your children are available, scheduling-wise, to spend time with both families (yours AND your exe’s) this holiday season. This way, they won’t lose out on all of the fun and connection and the important holiday traditions between your two families can still be enjoyed..
3. Think about creating some new traditions. This is an opportunity to change how you do things, to keep and build on what has worked in the past and to leave the old outdated traditions behind—you really don’t need them anymore. One client talked recently about how he always hated the ugly sweater brunch his in-laws threw every New Year’s Day. So, while he had mixed feelings about ending his marriage, he was very clear about feeling happy to lose the ugly sweater brunch.
One new tradition I encourage every client to consider is to give of themselves in some way over the holidays. Donate a gift to a child or a family in need, work at a soup kitchen and serve a holiday meal, write a letter to an enlisted soldier or to a soldier’s family. Remember that while you and your family may be struggling emotionally or otherwise this holiday season, others are too. It can be very comforting and healing to try to help someone else in need.
4. Face forward and try to live in the moment this holiday season. Don’t compare this year to last because it is going to be different especially in terms of how you are feeling. Do try to remember that you won’t be feeling this way forever—this is but a moment in time in your life and in your family’s life. There are many more holidays to come.
5. Dream a little about your future. Take a moment or two to think about what you’d like to see in your life and your children’s lives as you all move forward beyond the divorce. Don’t be afraid to daydream a bit and think about what you really want as you move ahead and find your way. It always helps to know what it is you are looking for and you never know when you just might find it!!