Let's face it. For folks newly separated or divorced, the holidays can really suck. Every year people separate and divorce and have to figure out how to negotiate Christmas from a different place. It can be immensely painful and sad, but it can also be a time of new experiences and traditions. How it goes is all up to you and will be the result of the three steps outlined in this article. Keeping reading.
My former husband and I separated in early November. That first year, I had the kids for Thanksgiving, and he had them the first part of their Christmas vacation. I thought I would be okay with that. Boy was I wrong. I was so totally not prepared for that day.
For me, I really thought I would be just fine. I remember thinking I would sleep in, get up and take a nice run, and just enjoy the morning. What I found, though, was that waking up on Christmas morning alone in my house that first year has gone down as one of the absolute worse days of my life. And even as I write about that day many years later, I can still feel the depth of emotions of that experience. I thought I could treat it as just another day, but that didn't work for me at all. I was an emotional wreck the entire day, which was not what I had wanted for my kids or for myself.
As a family law attorney, I now use this personal experience to warn my clients about the need for deliberate planning around the holidays. Hopefully I can help them avoid the common pitfalls I experienced.
What I learned the hard way is to think ahead, plan ahead, and be very deliberate and intentional about the holidays. Even if you think you will be okay and that it's no big deal, it is. Whether you have children or not, everything is different. Trust me. It will help you and your children if you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for this time of year.
What can you do? Here are the three steps for surviving Christmas:
- Make a plan. Definitely do this. I am big fan of journaling and writing things down, so get out some paper and write down your plan. Where will you be? Who will you be with? What will you do? What will you think about? What will you not let yourself think about? These last two questions are critically important. If you want to go down that melancholy road and feel sorry for yourself and cry all day, you can do that. And likely that is what will happen if you do not heed this advice and plan ahead. When you do plan ahead and follow your plan, you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
- Surround yourself with family and friends. If you get through the above journaling exercise and realize you don't know where you'll be or who you'll be with, then get busy making some plans. Surround yourself with people, any people. Get busy cooking for others or going to the movies or doing anything that will require your attention with other people involved.
- Begin new traditions. Everything in your life is changing right now, including your holiday traditions. What can you do this year that is new and different and fun? What can you do that will keep your mind occupied and that you can enjoy with your children? My children and I now go to a movie every year on Christmas Day. That is our new tradition and we plan our day around it. What ideas do you have that will help you get through this day in a way that you can feel good about when it's done?
Taking these three steps will help you get through the holidays with less angst and with a great feeling of accomplishment for being able to get a grip during a tough time. Do yourself and your children a favor. Get out your journal and start writing your plan now.