Steps to Survive The Holidays After Divorce

Yes, it is the holiday season. Back before my separation and divorce, the holidays had an air of magic about them. A time to celebrate our family and our faith. This division of my family now caused significant changes in how the holiday season is celebrated. I would have to learn to accept these changes and find new ways to keep the holidays special. Let’s take a look at a few steps to maintain a happy holiday when your family dynamic has changed.

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The first holiday season I spent alone was in 2013. I remember the confusion and pain like it was yesterday.   During this season, I hated all the complicated plans my kids tried to make to include everyone in their newly divided families’ holidays. We were all hurt and confused, and sadly we were not versed in surviving the holidays during a divorce.  

 I am 10 years away from this painful time and have learned much regarding surviving divorce and the holidays. Here are a few tips I hope will help you if you find yourself in this position. 

 Here is a quote from my journal during the early days of my husband’s exit.  I can remember the pain as I read these words.

“I remember clearly the pain of facing my first holiday as a separated woman. My children were in pain, and so was I. The only one who showed no regret was the one who divided us.

Today, I am still disturbed that someone can do this to a family, especially for nothing other than selfishness. I no longer miss him and do not want to be around him. I now realize I never really knew him. My only concern is the example set for my children and the instability that comes with that example. I will not see my family on Thanksgiving Day.

 1-Be Patient and Flexible-It is important to not only be patient with yourself as you go through this turbulent time but be patient with your children.  Everyone is hurt, and everyone wants some form of stability in their holiday season.  It is ok to be flexible on when to celebrate each holiday.  If you can’t celebrate on the actual holiday, select another day to be together. 

  • Be patient with yourself and your family as you navigate this new normal.
  • Be flexible. You don’t have to celebrate on the calendar date; you can choose another date if needed. 
  • Ask your family/your children how they would like to celebrate the holidays and adjust accordingly.

2-Practice Gratitude-Your may not be able to see what there is to be thankful for during this difficult time.  Make yourself sit back and look at the good that still remains and be thankful.

  • Thank God for all that is good.
  • Be thankful for the family and friends that remain in your life.
  • Be thankful for God’s love and guidance.
  • Be thankful for your life today and your new life in the future.
  • Be thankful that God will never leave you or forsake you.

3-Remember The Holiday is not All About Expensive Gifts-Divorce in many cases, changes your budget when it comes to holiday giving.  Suddenly you may not be able to give in the manner you are accustomed to.  Adjust your thinking when it comes to holiday gifting, and change your mindset.

  • Enjoy an experience rather than giving a gift.  Look for free or low-cost holiday events to enjoy with family and friends.
  • Go Christmas Caroling.
  • Gather to make cookies or other holiday bread and desserts.  These can be made together as an event and then given as gifts.
  • Have a tree decorating party.
  • Attend holiday church events such as choral productions or plays.
  • Take a holiday hike and come home and enjoy homemade soup with family and friends.
  • Create your own holiday experiences.

 4-Develop New Holiday Traditions-One of my favorite holiday traditions was the PJ exchange we had on Christmas Eve.  Every Christmas Eve, we would gather together at our home and exchange PJs.  We would open our new pajamas while enjoying a charcuterie board along with champagne and various sweets.  This had become my favorite holiday event.  When my husband left me, I realized this tradition would never be the same.

It took some time, but I developed a new tradition that I love even more.  This tradition is based on an Icelandic holiday called Jolabokaflod or Book Flood.  On this holiday in Iceland, families gather together and exchange books, and read the night away while enjoying hot chocolate.

 I love books, and I liked the idea of the Book Flood, so I incorporated it into my family tradition. Now, on an evening nearing Christmas, my kids and grandkids come together for my version of the Book Flood.  We exchange pajamas and books.  We enjoy not only hot chocolate but drinks such as holiday cocktails, wine, or champagne.  So I took a tradition from my past and tweaked it to make it even better.

  • Develop new traditions.
  • Tweak old traditions. 
  • Take a look at other’s traditions and incorporate them into yours. Do some research.
  • Be flexible with dates to celebrate.
  • Involve your family and friends in developing these new customs in your life.
  • Realize this will take time. It is a process.

5-What to Do If You Are Alone During The Holidays-Many find themselves alone during the holidays.  In a divorce, you no longer have a spouse to enjoy the holidays with, and friends and even family may walk away, leaving you alone. If this is the case, you need to adjust your expectations and attempt to enjoy the holiday you do have, even being alone.

  • Adjust your expectations.
  • Take care of you!
  • Make a festive cocktail and enjoy it while watching a holiday movie.
  • If you know you are going to be alone, and you can afford it, take a trip over the holidays.
  • Join area Meetup Groups.  Many of them have holiday events for “orphans.”
  • Volunteer
  • Read a book.
  • Be thankful for what you do have.
  • Look to churches or area organizations for holiday events and gatherings you can attend.
  • Find something you love to do, and do it!

I don’t know where you are in this process. If this is your first holiday season, hold on; things will get better. I find the best thing to do is to cling to your faith and spend time with your family and your friends. That is what pulls us through what I have found to be, potentially, the most challenging time in your life.

Always remember God’s Promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

God bless you this holiday season.