My divorce was finalized two days before I turned forty and two weeks before Christmas. It was quite a traumatic introduction to my forties. At that point, I felt powerless over my life; bad things were happening to me. At least, that’s what I thought. As I look back, I had way more power than I ever could have imagined. The power did not lie in control over the kids, or the control over my ex-spouse, the power I had was over me. And even though I could not change the situation, I could change the way I reacted to it.
Facing the holidays as a divorced parent took a toll on my emotional state. When I was married to my first husband, Thanksgiving was my holiday. We, as a couple, hosted elaborate Thanksgiving dinners with friends. Divorce changed this tradition drastically. Shortly after our divorce, my ex-husband and his new wife decided to continue this tradition, but obviously, I was no longer a part of the celebration. Our old friends were invited, and they attended, and naturally, our kids wanted to join the fun. I remember dropping my daughters off at his house on Thanksgiving day and feeling as if my traditions had been ripped from me, burned and obliterated. It stung, I’m not going to lie. After finding the grace to move beyond the emotional snags, life became significantly easier. It was a critical step toward my divorce recovery. If I could go back in time and share some insight with my newly-divorced self, this is what I would say to her, and this is what I want to share with you.
The holidays are right around the corner, and there’s a good chance that your emotions are going to go haywire. You will feel sentimental and weepy, and if you have kids and you’re splitting their holiday time with your ex, your heart will ache to be with them. There are some steps you can take right now to help survive the holidays. As a divorce coach, I learned a technique called the H.I.G.H. R.O.A.D. (© CDC Divorce Coaching Institute), which is a strategy to use during this vulnerable time in your life.
To make it easy, the acronym H.I.G.H. R.O.A.D. stands for the responses that will help you navigate the holidays post-divorce.
Honor yourself. Start by answering the question, when in my past was I feeling like I was on my “A” game? Maybe you had an obstacle that you had to overcome, and you rose to the occasion; what were you doing during that time? The idea is to create your “best self,” and by looking at the wins of the past, it can help guide you through creating a better present and future.
Inner Awareness. What’s the movie trailer that keeps looping in your brain? Is it true? Be aware of the thoughts that you hear yourself say. Many times, the things we are telling ourselves are an extreme exaggeration of the truth. “Change” begins with your thoughts…because thoughts become words, words become beliefs, beliefs become actions, actions become reality.
Generous Listening. Be present and listen to others like it’s the first time you are hearing them speak. Listen as if you have a beginner’s mind. Take in the information as an observer rather than a judge, and apply it to yourself as well. Pause before speaking. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
Hot Button Management. Be aware of what triggers you. Triggers are the “snags” of life. When you get fired up about something, take notice. Why does it have this effect on you?
Respect Relationships. Respect your ex no matter if s/he deserves it, not just in the face-to-face interaction, but also respect the time that your ex has with your children. Let them have that one-on-one time without interfering or feeling the need to have constant contact. If you’re guilty of this, question your motives; many times it’s more about your needs than the kids. Practice the golden rule, treat others like you want to be treated.
Overcome Obstacles. We can all agree that divorce can be a slog, and you will run into challenges. To stay strong and build resilience, you must dedicate time to key areas of your life, like your physical health, emotional well-being, and spiritual life. Ask yourself, what’s the one thing I can do today to improve in each one of these areas? If not, you will be operating in a state of imbalance.
Allow Others What is Important to Them. Determine what is most important to you in the divorce, but also allow your former spouse to have a voice. Set an intention of how you want “to do” divorce, and ask yourself, will these issues be important in 10 days, 10 months, 10 years? Choose grace over gracelessness.
Develop New Boundaries. Set up boundaries before you need them. Life after divorce is different, and you have to create a new norm; that entails redefining boundaries for family, your former spouse, friends, and your children.
Divorce is like trying to find your way in a foreign land with unfamiliar terrain, and you’re in the process of learning how to navigate the landscape. There have been others that have gone before you, and as a result, they can offer you a roadmap. Consider the H.I.G.H. R.O.A.D. responses (© CDC Divorce Coaching Institute) to be the cliff notes on how “to do” divorce during the holidays. Using this H.I.G.H R.O.A.D. method makes it possible to move through the transition of divorce with grace and dignity.
You have a choice, to either get “bitter” or get “better.” Are you ready to get “better?”
India Kern, CDC®
Certified Divorce Coach • Author • Podcaster • Speaker
Written by Author and Certified Divorce Coach India Kern. India specializes in working with people caught off guard by divorce. She helps them build confidence, find a sense of security and be happy again. Located in La Jolla, CA, India provides one-on-one coaching in person or by teleconference.
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