Divorce recovery is tough enough the rest of the year but figuring out how to survive your first holiday season after divorce can seem impossible. No matter how unhappy your marriage was there were traditions that you had as a family. Maybe you spent Christmas Eve at the in laws every year and now Christmas Eve looms in front of you like an endless vacuum. I know that the first Christmas Eve I was separated my kids spent the evening with my ex and it was a weird feeling for me. I wasn’t used to being without children ever let alone at Christmas Time. Eating pizza and watching Christmas movies isn’t quite the same when you are by yourself.
Obviously it’s important to find new traditions to replace the old ones. It will feel strange at first but it will get easier and eventually your new traditions will be just as much a part of your life as the old ones were.
Here are some strategies to help you get through that first holiday season as painlessly as possible.
One: Take Care of You
It’s the same old advice but it’s more important than ever. You have to take care of yourself first. You have to make sure that you are healthy, happy, and making the best choices for you. That means getting enough sleep, eating right, and giving yourself permission to have fun.
Choose a couple of things that you’ve always wanted to do, grab a friend and go do them. If you don’t have a friend that’s available then go by yourself. Watch your favorite Christmas movie with some spiked eggnog and cry at the Hallmark commercials -- just because you can. Plan at least one thing a week that you can do just for you.
Two: Stick to a Schedule
Even if you’ve always flown by the seat of your pants now is the time to make a schedule and stick to it. You probably aren’t thinking as efficiently as you usually do and you don’t want to realize that you forgot to buy Christmas presents at 4:30 PM Christmas Eve. As soon as possible sit down and make a list of everything you need to do -- even if it’s stuff you’ve done every year for decades.
Get everything written down on your calendar right down to putting cookies out for Santa. Once you’ve gotten everything written down and scheduled go through and makes notes about which things can be delegated to other people.
Three: Talk It Out
Don’t be afraid to talk to close friends about how you are feeling. You are going through a tough time and there are times that you’ll need a sounding board, a shoulder, or an extra set of hands. It isn’t heroic to go through difficult times quietly -- like a Spartan. It’s kind of dumb, actually. It makes it less likely you’ll actually be able to get through those things successfully.
When you feel overwhelmed call someone, talk it out, pray together, or go get Margaritas. Just make sure that you do something that helps you move ahead.
Four: Create New Traditions
For as long as I was married to my first husband we had china plates on the table during the holidays. Once he was gone I grabbed paper plates because I was tired of my final chore of Christmas being a stack of dishes higher than my head.
Oh, there are still some traditions that remain, I have instituted new ones, and my new husband has brought in his own batch of holiday activities and traditions. I have ADD and change is difficult for me -- even good changes. I know it’s important that I accept new ways of doing things, though. Moving on and accepting change is a healthy part of growth and healing.
Talk to your kids and get some ideas of things they’d like to do. Maybe there are things that you’ve been doing that they aren’t interested in or will continue to do with their father. Add three or four of the ideas to your schedule and give them a try. You may not want to do them again but you never know. You may really enjoy the new activities and realize you’ve found some new traditions.
Five: Keep Your Expectations Reasonable
The most difficult thing for me to get past was my own expectations of how things were supposed to be. I wanted the holidays to be as magical for my kids as they had been for me and I was willing to do almost anything to make that happen. The thing is that there is no way to replicate my memories for my children. Even if I could they wouldn’t be the same because memories have a way of embellishing the truth and making it look even better.
Expectations are toxic and they will drag you down. Make it simple - try to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have a good time. After all, everyone is responsible for their own responses, right?
You can’t force someone to have a good time. It’s not your responsibility to make everyone happy.
A Support Network Is Imperative
In order to keep everything in perspective it’s important to have a good support network. Friends can help you see when your expectations are out of control or when you are over-reacting to something. Join First Wives World and speak with others who understand because they’ve been there, too
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: By Town