One of the hardest things about separation and divorce is all the memories and emotions that come up during all our special holiday celebrations as our holiday traditions change. The first Christmas, or if you do not celebrate Christmas – whatever you do celebrate, without your full extended family, is probably one of the most difficult times in the first year of separation.
Kids, if you have them, may have to spend their first vacation divided up between households, and they will probably find things difficult to adjust to as well.
Here are my top 6 tips about improving the holidays for you and yours when you are first separated.
1. Release your expectations:
Do not expect things to go as you plan or want them to. They probably won’t. It is better to stay open to new possibilities than to have expectations of how things should go during the holidays. Keep an open mind and an open heart, and embrace both the unexpected fun and difficult moments. Life happens and time marches forward so spending energy fighting or trying to control the change happening during this time is just a big energy drain. Enjoy the small things and keep moving forward as best you can. Things may not be perfect but sometimes there is also humour in the fails. I found that laughing when things became ridiculous really did help ease my burdens!
During the holidays simplify everything you can. When you are going through a difficult and stressful time, just surviving is a good goal to aim for. Surviving as best you can is the key – stop aiming to be a superwoman or a superman – stop trying to be a super parent – stop being perfect – stop doing it all – relax and make a list of nice-to-haves and must-haves. Then be ready to cross out some nice-to-haves if the going gets rough. I know when I was married, I had a large Brunch every December for my extended family and closest friends early in the month. I did it so my kids were not disappointed the first year I was a single mom and it completely drained my energy for the rest of the month. I wished, after it was done, that I had not tried to act like everything was fine and I could still “do it all”! You have my full permission to simplify and cut out your energy drains and add more energy recharging activities to your list. Everyone is different. Do what works for you!
3. Re-examine your old holiday traditions:
The holidays are often full of traditions that we may not even enjoy anymore. I know I loved getting that real Christmas tree when I was married but was quite happy to go for an artificial tree when I was a single mom and not have to worry about how to get a tree in and out of my home. Creating memories doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. Discard the traditions that just do not work this year. You can decide if you want to do them again at any time in the future. What do you enjoy? What won’t you miss? What will be a relief to take off your calendar and your to-do list?
4. Make new holiday traditions:
I started a few new holiday traditions that I enjoyed that we had never had the time for before. We started sleeping over at a relative’s house Christmas Day after sharing a Christmas dinner, so I could enjoy the family time as an adult after I put my kids to bed. We stopped going out to a Christmas Eve party that was a long drive and often happened during stormy weather and stayed home. I started enjoying a walk to look at the Christmas lights Christmas Eve, which was always a really nice change of pace! Then, of course, some hot drinks, cookies and a Christmas movie were a great new tradition. It actually was a return to some great childhood memories for me.
5. Be patient – it is what you make it.
If something doesn’t work this year for you – make a mental note and re-evaluate it for next year. Do you want to stop that tradition, alter it, or start something different? Nothing is set in stone. Focus on what works for you and yours! Examining what traditions you enjoy or dislike and adjust to your life as things happen in real-time! Change can be good! Patience for making and adjusting to the changes is important, especially with your children. They need just as much time to adjust and start to flourish in their new situation as you do!
6. Manage other’s expectations:
I also want to mention that other people’s expectations can be exhausting this time of year. Be honest and tell people you are reevaluating and simplifying this year. Next year may be different, but this year if you just do not have the energy let people know what to expect from you. Stand up for yourself and decide what you want. Then clearly state and defend your decisions with healthy boundaries. There is nothing wrong with cutting back and if people do not understand why you need to, it is their problem, not yours. You are only responsible for and to yourself. You never have to justify your decisions to others. Those that truly are important in your life will understand and support your decisions.
Pam Mirehouse, CDC®, Health and Wellness Coach, BSc. Hon. Biology
I am passionate about using separation and divorce, one of my own most difficult personal experiences, to create positive personal growth by embracing the discomfort and learning from it. I have been guiding, motivating and supporting people during their separation and divorce journeys since 2015! You are not alone – I can help you find your best path through your own divorce and thrive moving forward.
Build YOUR perfect life…even though you aren’t sure what that looks like yet…without the baggage of your divorce holding you back.
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