This time of year is full of holidays, which makes it particularly challenging for people who are newly separated or divorced. But 2020 will be harder than most.
We’re in a pandemic, with COVID-19 spreading, and there are suggestions for us to avoid gatherings during the holidays. That means that some of you going through or newly divorced are not only without your spouse for the first time, but you also may be without your children AND without the option to be with other family or friends. That can make an already bad situation worse.
If you are going to be facing holiday celebrations alone, here are three tips to help you get through it with a little more peace and joy.
TIP #1 – Prepare in advance.
This is the most important thing you can do. If you know you will be alone, and don’t have a plan for your day, you could end up finding yourself staying on the couch, binging on TV and snacks, feeling depressed and lonely.
And before you know it, the day will be over and you will feel a major letdown.
But it doesn’t have to be that way and you CAN make it better.
One way to do that is to make a detailed plan for your day. A few weeks before the holiday, ask yourself:
- What would I love to do with my time that I usually can’t do?
- What are three big things I would love to do?
- What will make me really excited about the day?
To get a little more specific, consider these Four Buckets to get you started and write down what you will do:
Food: The reality is that most holidays center around food. I’m sure you have traditional foods you make and eat on these special days. So, think of what you might want to eat that would make the day special for you. Is there a breakfast that you could have to start the day off on a high note? Is there a special dinner you will enjoy? Plan a grocery list for the day so you have what will bring you some joy.
Use Your Body: Plan a way to move your body – exercise, an outdoor walk, yoga. Yes, exercise is good for you, AND it also boosts your mood, which will be super important on your first holiday alone. So schedule a time to get some movement into your day.
Connection: Make plans to speak by phone or video with a friend or family members, or plan a time where you can virtually eat with friends or family. Contact these people ahead of time so you have a set plan. And don’t sit back and wait for people to reach out to you. Your friends and family will be happy to be there for you!
Self-care: Think in advance what you will do when you feel sad or lonely. The tendency might be to sit in front of a screen, grab a cookies or chips, or grab a drink (or five!). What would be an alternative? Will you call someone? Take a walk? Read a book? Journal? Meditate? Yoga? Deciding what you will do ahead of time will make it easier for you.
TIP #2 – On the day of the holiday, allow yourself to feel the grief and sadness.
What do I mean by that? First, just know that you will be sad and that is normal. When that happens, just sit with and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Let yourself experience all the emotions.
The trick is to decide how long you will stay in the sad place. Five minutes? Ten minutes? Just set a limit for yourself so you don’t remain stuck in that place. And pull out your list of things you planned to do when you feel sad to help yourself feel better. Then get back on your schedule of activities to keep yourself doing things that will bring you joy.
TIP #3 – On the day of the holiday, practice gratitude.
I know that this will be REALLY hard when it is the first day you are celebrating a holiday alone. And yet, if you think about it, I know there are things you can be thankful for. You DO have some good things in your life.
When I was newly divorced and struggling with gratitude, I started a simple gratitude prayer with my kids – “Thank you for the food in front of us, the clothing on our backs, and the roof over our heads.”
It’s simple, but a good reminder to be thankful for the little things. And just reminding yourself of what you do have, and being grateful for those things, can switch you to a better mood.
Now, go grab a piece of paper (or Google doc!) and plan for your first holiday alone.
And, remember that this year will be the hardest one. Next year, it WILL be easier!
Pamela Ludmer, CDC Certified Divorce Coach®, CDC Certified Transition and Recovery Coach®