If you’re feeling lonely, sad, or angry after a divorce, it’s entirely normal. Unfortunately, those feelings intensify around the holiday season.
If the divorce was less amicable and more tension-filled, the first Christmas after separating could be challenging, especially if children are involved. In addition, you may still have lingering angry emotions and find it difficult to communicate regarding the holiday plans.
Then there’s the other side. If the divorce was on relatively friendly terms, and yes, it happens, you may miss your ex. The holidays can then bring up feelings of loneliness and depression.
In any circumstance, you may feel overwhelmed by something as simple as retrieving the Christmas tree and decorations from storage without help from your ex.
No matter the circumstances, divorce is a traumatic experience anyone can go through in their adult life. The impact on your mental well-being may lead you straight to the Christmas blues. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few tips to make your first Christmas after divorce feel amazing again.
Think About the Kids
If the divorce involves children, it might be slightly more complicated than just going your separate ways. You will need to learn how to co-parent effectively, which is even more critical during the holiday season.
Since this is your first Christmas after the divorce, friends, and family won’t expect you to host a Christmas brunch with your ex. But who knows? If it was an amicable split, you might be able to in the future, but right now, not so much.
The children’s time may be split between the parents, which can be highly stressful. So, keep that in mind when planning the holidays with your ex. Consider having Christmas under one roof for only a couple of hours. This idea may be too much for you, so don’t feel bad if that option is off the table.
If a court order that details the holidays is in place, it’s essential to remember to follow that. However, remember that most court orders contain language that allows you and your ex to alter an arrangement only if you agree.
Helping Your Children Deal with a Divorce
As complex as divorce can be on adults, it’s even harder on children. As the parent, it’s your job to make the transition as smooth as possible. Here are a few tips to help make the situation easier for everyone involved.
Don’t involve them in your drama: Your children aren’t angry at your ex (their parent), so don’t drag them into the situation. Stop bad-mouthing your ex to (or in front of) the kids. Doing so makes them feel they must choose sides to keep the peace. Instead, allow them to remain neutral in an otherwise hostile situation.
Here’s what you can do to ensure the children’s neutrality:
- Stop gossiping about your ex. The kids may be within earshot
- Only say positive things about your ex around the kids. If you can’t, don’t say anything at all
- Never use the children as the messenger to communicate with your ex-spouse
- Don’t ask the kids to keep secrets from the other parent. Ever!
- Don’t compete with your ex to win their favor.
- Never stop the kids from seeing their parent as a means to punish your ex
Help kids maintain a healthy relationship with both parents: You want the children to feel like they’re still a part of a family unit, but spread out in two separate households, so make sure they keep a good relationship with your ex. It may not be what you want, but it’s not for you. It’s for the kids’ sake. Additionally, you and your ex should spend as much time as possible with the kids, if not together, then separately.
Allow them to be kids: Children may have to deal with many adult issues that come along with a divorce. That’s unavoidable. However, as much as possible, leave those problems where they belong; with the adults.
The kids should continue being kids by maintaining their social life, sports, play dates, and other fun activities they enjoy. These distractions are an excellent way to steer their thoughts away from any feelings of doubt, anger, and sadness regarding the divorce.
Have Realistic Holiday Expectations
Even people who haven’t gone through a divorce sometimes have unrealistic expectations for the Christmas season, but imagine dealing with an added emotional blow like a separation.
So, lower your expectations. But, of course, we’re not talking about grab-a-fruitcake-some-eggnog-and-crawl-into-bed kind of lowering of expectations. Instead, we’re suggesting keeping the season in perspective.
You won’t be on a holiday high every day, and no one expects you to. But, when you feel those small pockets of cheer, try to get into the spirit. However, no one will fault you for being a Grinch a few times this season.
Make Your Dreams Come True
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do for the holiday season but never did it? This year, make your dreams come true by doing something you’ve always wanted.
Often, during the season, people can become depressed. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, worsens with limited exposure to daylight in the late fall and winter but disappears when spring begins.
SAD can worsen when you add a factor like the first Christmas after a divorce. Then, we can become even more depressed and withdrawn. To help keep you in a positive place, try volunteering. This puts the focus on others and not on your feelings of sadness or loneliness.
10 Benefits of Volunteering
It doesn’t matter if you’re the type who prefers plenty of social interaction or if you prefer as little interaction as possible. Volunteering has many social, personal, and career benefits. Here are the top 10.
- Give you a sense of purpose: Volunteering helps you become part of something greater than yourself. For example, if you’re going through a divorce or recently unemployed, helping others can give new meaning to your life and keep you active during a rough time.
- Meeting new people: Volunteering helps you become part of something greater than yourself. For example, if you’re going through a divorce or recently unemployed, helping others can give new meaning to your life and keep you active during a rough time.
- Provides a sense of community: Volunteering helps you feel more connected to those you help. In addition, this volunteering experience can prompt you to become involved with other aspects of your community, such as local politics.
- Improves self-esteem: Volunteering can help boost your self-confidence and self-esteem when doing things you deem valuable and worthwhile for your community. It also provides a sense of accomplishment and can help you feel more fulfilled in life.
- Increases your social skills: When you volunteer, you have a chance to talk to new people and sharpen your social skills. You’ll work closely with others while utilizing social skills like relationship management and active listening. You’ll also have the opportunity to develop future business and personal relationships.
- Teaches valuable skills like training and in-person experience: You can get training and hands-on experience while volunteering. It can also help you learn new skills or help build upon existing ones.
- Brings joy into your life: Volunteering isn’t all about business. Many people use it to pursue hobbies while making a difference. For example, you may enjoy painting in your free time. You can use your artistic skills to paint murals for the community to help beautify the neighborhood.
- Helps bring you to a happier place in life: It feels good to contribute something for the greater good. These feelings lessen the effects of anger, anxiety, or stress you may deal with. In addition, when you volunteer, you’re often building connections and bonds with others. Doing so counteracts social isolation.
- A great way to social network: When volunteering, not only have you acquired valuable skills and experience that you can use in the workforce, but you may also meet people who can mentor you and be a part of your social network.
- It take you out of your comfort zone: You may have personal challenges regarding leaving your comfort zone. Through volunteering, you can overcome those difficulties by doing new things with people you may not know.
If it’s been some time since your divorce, and you’re ready, why not consider meeting someone new? They don’t have to be romantic prospects. Many sites cater to those looking for someone to hang out with. It’s so easy. All you do is sign up and only respond to someone if you’re interested. No pressure at all.
If online sites aren’t your thing, consider having a friend set you up with someone. Then, take the pressure off by making it a double date. If it goes well, you can schedule another date. If not, no biggie. The objective is to take your mind off the fact that it’s the first Christmas without your ex and to have some fun.
Begin New Traditions
The first Christmas after a divorce is the perfect time to start new traditions. Unfortunately, when you attempt to do things the same way you usually do them minus the ex, this may stir up negative emotions.
Why not start a new tradition? Go on a holiday hayride with the kids. It’s exciting and adventurous and something the entire family can enjoy. But, more importantly, it takes the focus off an old tradition and places it on a new one.
Be More Positive about Your First Christmas after Divorce
You have two options here; you can be depressed about the situation and make everyone else around you depressed. Or, you can choose door number two; Learn to lean into your very first Christmas after your divorce with a positive attitude.
This doesn’t mean you need to be happy all the time, because who is? This means the holiday season is the perfect time to be optimistic about the situation. Let your healthy family relationships take the spotlight as you deal with the side effects of the divorce.
This includes spending extra time with family and friends. They are the ones that supported you throughout your trying times, so you owe it to them to showcase your appreciation for their support by being positive.
The great thing about online visits is that you can get together with those you may not have been able to visit with due to time, family, and financial obligations. Bonus: there are no extended visits because you can click off Zoom anytime.
Maintain A Self-Care Routine
Don’t give in to the holiday temptations of cookies, pies, and all the Christmas goodies. Instead, start (or maintain) a self-care regimen.
Unfortunately, after a divorce, you may have lower self-esteem and self-worth. That’s OK. A divorce can take a toll on your mind, body, and spirit.
However, you don’t have to stay in that lower place. Instead, pick yourself up and do things to clear your mind, like meditation, visualization, and breathing techniques. Join a Yoga class or continue your at-home exercise routine.
Regarding diet, indulging in the occasional cookie or two is OK. Just be aware of what you’re eating and stay as healthy as possible since food affects our mood.
Self-Care Routines after (And During) A Divorce
Whether amicable or not, divorce is always a complex and stressful experience. You are no longer part of a couple, and things you used to do as a married person can trigger you in your single life.
Your self-esteem and self-worth may plummet, causing you to fall short when it comes to self-care. However, taking care of yourself during this time is vital. Here are self-care routines to keep you healthy.
- Get in some exercise. Exercise is essential, especially for a person dealing with a stressful situation. Regular exercise can help boost your mood and has numerous health benefits, including being a stress reducer.
- Create time for activities you enjoy. During the divorce, the proceedings will take a great deal of time. So, in between, take a moment to do the things you like. It doesn’t have to be anything big like hopping on a plane to Bora Bora for a month-long getaway, although that would be nice. Instead, go for a walk, or read a book. A spa day is a perfect way to relieve stress. Spend an hour or two listening to your backlog of audiobooks. Make this time 100% about you and no one else.
- Talk to a professional. Sometimes we believe we can handle the situation by ourselves. Sometimes that’s true, and you may need outside support other times. Never be afraid to admit that you can’t go it alone and need help. Mental health professionals such as therapists, coaches, and counselors are trained to assist people going through difficult transitions, such as divorce. They’ll provide information and valuable advice when you really need it. So if life feels overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek help.
Steer Clear of Unsupportive People
Unsupportive people may come in the form of family, friends, and coworkers. Unfortunately, we all have them in our lives. They don’t have anything positive to say and want to complain about every little thing.
Toxic people are the last ones you need around you when it already takes more effort to sustain your well-being after a divorce.
To feel stable and secure in your new situation, give yourself time to heal. If you have children, spend more time doing fun activities with them. Excuse yourself or call it an early night if you’re in the vicinity of toxic people who like to gossip and speak negatively about others (ex., the company Christmas party).
Navigating your way through a divorce can be challenging, especially during the holiday season. Take it easy on yourself if you feel angry, sad, or frustrated. These feelings are natural. Rarely does an individual come out of a divorce without some bitter emotions.
Your goal is to survive the holiday as best you can. However, if you need additional support, don’t hesitate to call on family, friends, or even licensed professionals. Good luck and Happy Holidays!