The first holiday season after a divorce or separation can place tremendous emotional strain on the best of us. Now that you and your ex have parted ways, the holiday parties and family gatherings you have been celebrating for years as a couple suddenly seem daunting and complicated. Who gets to go to which parties? How do you "share custody" of friendships? What do you say when someone asks why your better half is no longer at your side? It's enough to make an already emotionally fraught season barely tolerable.
But fear not. Celebrating the holidays alone can be a great joy, but it requires good planning, a positive attitude and most importantly, realistic expectations. Here is our short list of tips to help you have a joyful holiday season solo:
1. Don't Stay Home Alone!
What's the worst thing you can do to yourself during the holidays? Spending time alone with your thoughts. Even worse? Avoiding your family and friends. Your first holidays after a break up can be an emotional roller coaster, so don't try to ride it solo. Make plans with close friends and loved ones to avoid spending time alone. 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 with no free time to ponder the last year's would of, should of, could ofs.
2. Avoid the Ghosts of Holidays Past.
The holidays are a time to make memories: wild office parties, quiet crisp winter landscapes, romantic New Year's nights. When recently going through a divorce or separation, don't visit places where you have created holiday memories with your ex. And if you happen upon that bistro or bar that you and your ex once frequented for years and years, don't let the past haunt your future. So just pop in, say your hellos and merry Christmases and leave. This isn't the time to reminisce on old memories; it's the time to begin building fresh, fun, brand new ones.
3. Share the Joy (and the Kids).
Nothing makes the holidays better than the sounds of children: laughing, shouting, tearing open gifts. Don't be selfish. Share this joy with your ex. Plan for the kids to spend time with both you and your ex. A well-planned visitation schedule will make all the difference. Know each other's schedules; nothing is worse than miscommunication. Find a holiday place like a mall for to pick up and drop off your children. Seeing your children's smiles against the holiday decorations will help you leave them for a few days. And, when you have to see your ex, remember the most important gift of all: Don't put you children in the crossfire. The holidays are harder for them than they are for you!
4. Take your own Holiday Vacation, You Earned it!
Get away from all the people and places that remind you of your previous
life. 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 stockings aren't full enough for a flight, take a vacation in your hometown. Visit a museum. Go to a holiday market. Rent a hotel. Shop. You'd be surprised how much a few days away can give you some perspective.
5. Make a New Year's Resolution -- Or Several.
Leave last year -- the disappointments, the fights, the court dates, the tears -- behind you.
Remember: It's a new year and a new you! So make a resolution: Take up a new sport, join a new club, meet new people and put yourself back out there. And, most importantly, count your blessings. Always remember that things could be worse. No matter how bad the divorce and or break up was, you still have something to be thankful for. Be optimistic, you never know what the holiday and New Year may bring to you.
A divorce or separation doesn't mean the end; it means a new beginning. In our decades of experience, we have seen hundreds of clients recover from their divorce to find love again. Embrace the spirit of the season -- of hope, joy, and renewal. Have a happy and healthy holidays.