Is it your first year heading into the holidays post separation?
Whether you have been separated for months or just a couple of weeks, this time of year is always hard on those who are going through a separation/divorce.
Let’s talk about the elephant in your well appointed and holiday decorated living room first…
It is the biggest coupley/family driven time of the year…and you just walked out of your coupley/family situation or had your world upended by being walked out upon. Not really feeling the coupley/family vibe? This is completely understandable and normal.
Before I launch headlong into a whole bunch of easy tips, let’s just take a moment to observe the following…
Your first holiday season post separation/divorce is going to be hard.
Period. It doesn’t matter if you have a new family, significant other, have your kids, don’t have your kids, taking a trip, not taking a trip. Emotionally it is going to be hard…for everyone.
I say, embrace the hard. It is going to be a hard time for someone in your family. You. Your Ex, Your kids. Your parents. Your ex’s parents. Someone is going to have a hard time with the holiday happiness and the lack of family unity this year. Likely all of you…at the same time.
If it is you that is having a hard time. I suggest that you take a step back and assess what it is you’re grieving. And it is grief…even if you are the one that left. You still get to grieve even if you are the one that cheated, that left, that screwed it up. Grief doesn’t only settle on the righteous. Grief comes for all of us, regardless of whether or not we are guilty or saintly. So I suggest try to figure out what it is you are grieving: the physical comfort, the break in tradition, the loss of unity, the companionship that is usually still present in even some of the most dysfunctional unions. Make a list.
What exactly are you having a hard time with?
Once you have your list, organize it into things you can control and things you can’t. Here is a quick pointer…if it has anything to do with another person, place or thing, that falls into the category of items you can’t control. Once you have all the things you are finding hard and grieving down into the two columns, I suggest the following:
For the list that is out of your control, give it to the Universe, God or whatever you believe to be good and holy. You don’t have to be spiritual or religious to do this. If you believe in nothing supreme, then just plain hand it over to anyone but you. I also suggest writing each down on a piece of paper and putting them somewhere symbolic, perhaps a box especially designated: a cigar box, jewelry box, anything where you can keep them together and away from prying eyes. Write the date down next to each item you are putting in the box. Run out of space? Get a bigger box! (More on the box later…).
Now for the harder side of your list, the things you can change…
Your life and security has just been addressed. In real time and in a real way. The family system that you dedicated yourself to has just imploded (to varying degrees) and you are reeling, numb, angry, confused, sad, lonely, scared, tired and generally uncomfortable. Whatever it is you feel, admit it. Don’t deny it. Try to get to know how you are feeling well. Don’t be afraid of the “negative” emotions, they are here to teach you something, yes, perhaps something you didn’t want to know, but something nonetheless.
For the things you can change, pick one thing that you can change right now. Your attitude is a good place to start. Your life is not over, just the way you were living it. This separation/divorce is happening for you AND to you. It was ok before and it will be ok again. The best and most kind thing you can do for yourself right now is to take a breath, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a break. Stop the negative self-talk, the constant and relentless nagging fear that dogs your every step. Just work on being positive about something good in your life for five minutes. Start there.
Perhaps you are one of those go-getters and there is something way more tangible you can do on your side of the divorce street…pick one…ONLY ONE! And begin there. Perhaps you can call an attorney, or pack up a box, or open a new checking account, call a coach…just one thing!
Yes, stop. Put away all thoughts of divorce and family disruption. Go snuggle on the couch with your dog/kid/coziest blanket/new love interest/self. Leave the list behind until tomorrow…do something self-affirming and kind to the most amazing part of your failed union…YOU! You may be losing a marriage but you are gaining more time with the most important relationship you will ever have…the one with yourself. Yay you!
Erin Schaden, CDC Certified Divorce Coach®
I have a diverse background as a former family law litigator, Certified Mediator, degree in psychology and lots of life experience including a divorce of my own. I believe there can be dignity in divorce even if you are divorcing a sociopath! That is a strong statement but I know it to be true. I also believe that giving yourself the gift of coaching during this most trying time, helps bring your emotional reality and legal reality into the same zip code…which gets you through your divorce spending less emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually.