If you’ve recently experienced a separation or divorce, you’ll know how hard it can be, even on the calmest of days, so you’re probably looking ahead to the upcoming holiday season with a sense of dread.
If you have children with your ex-partner, the feeling of trepidation is probably even more amplified, as you’ll feel obliged to put your own needs last. Even for people who feel a sense of renewed freedom after their separation or divorce, you’ll still likely feel a tinge of sadness about facing these once happy times as a single person. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to make the Christmas period a little more bearable.
Surround yourself with love – Going through a divorce can cause feelings of loneliness and despair, so it’s a great idea to surround yourself with family and friends who genuinely love and support you. Not only can your people help you to feel loved and speed up your emotional recovery, but they can also help you by acting as a buffer and being the go-between contact between you and your ex.
Put the kids first – If you have children with your ex, it’s important to allow your children to spend time with him/her on some of the special days. If you yourself don’t feel ready to spend time with your ex, that’s fine, but plans for shared care should be made well in advance and adhered to so as not to cause resentment. Also reassure them that you will be fine on the days they spend with your ex, so they don’t feel guilty.
It’s a good idea to let your little ones know that the holidays will still be a fun, wonderful time, but there will be a few changes. Ensure that your children are comfortable with any plans made and that their schedule is age appropriate, as new arrangements can place extra stress on them.
Prepare in advance – If you want to avoid anything that will cause negative emotions or awkward situations, there’s no doubt you’ll have to plan ahead thoughtfully. If you don’t have children, avoid visiting locations where you might run into your ex or their family. Also avoid situations that remind you of your ex if you’re still a bit emotionally raw. You could even consider choosing a holiday destination you’ve never been to before, as this will promote a sense of escaping and allow you to form new, happy memories.
Do what YOU want to do – You’re probably like most people and have a usual holiday tradition that you stick to year after year. Traditions are great, but sometimes they can be full of obligation and stress, especially if you usually host a celebration at your home. This year, consider breaking tradition and doing something you really want to do, rather than what you’re expected to do. You may choose to forego your mother’s Christmas lunch and instead, head down to the beach for a picnic with friends. If you have kids, maybe ask them what they want to do; after all, a day full of laser tag with your kids sounds like much more fun than an hour of discussing the finer points of fly fishing with the obligatory drunk uncle!
Practice some deflective statements – Regardless of your situation, you’ll need to run the gauntlet of nosy relatives and well-meaning but misguided friends, who may ask you dozens of questions about your breakup. If you don’t feel like talking about it, arm yourself with a few rehearsed statements designed to shut down their curiosity in a diplomatic way. For example, saying something like “thanks for your concern, but I don’t want to dwell on the negatives of my past when I have such a promising future to look forward to”, will convey an unwillingness to discuss your personal business without seeming confrontational.
Look after yourself – Stress really can manifest as physical ailments, so it’s important to do as much as you can to keep yourself healthy. Make sure you’re getting adequate sleep and eating properly. Take time to relax and unwind from life, but try to avoid using crutches – such as junk food or alcohol – to comfort you, as this will just compound your problems.
Take baby steps – Just remember that each day will get easier and less painful as time goes on. Take things slowly and try to avoid uncomfortable situations or encounters. If you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed or anxious though, seek professional help, as you don’t need to go through it all alone.