Christmas in the midst of divorce or its recovery is just hard. No denying it. This holiday–which is all about family and traditions–can thrust broken dreams and hopes up front and center with every Christmas carol on the radio, holiday card in the mail, and Hallmark movie watched. How does one get through it?
- Be sad…periodically. Set aside time to let the tears flow, to wish it were different. Then take a breath and put the sadness aside for a time. Assure yourself you can get back to it if you need to but consciously box up the pain, put it up on a shelf, and do what you have to do for that next moment or hour or day. Repeat as needed.
- Know it’s not permanent. Don’t expect this holiday to be the blueprint for every one that follows. This is a unique year. Next year you will have an entire year of adjustment under your belt. So settle in for this one, set your table for one if needed, and know that whatever else happens, next year it will be better than this.
- That gratitude stuff works. If Anne Frank, holed-up in an attic during the worst of times, could find reasons to be grateful and filled with joy, then no matter how far this Christmas is from what you had planned for your life, you can too. Take the advice you’ve heard over and over and find a way to direct attention to those things. A journal works for a lot of people, or a blackboard sign in your kitchen, or my favorite, window writing pens for a bathroom mirror. https://www.amazon.com/Crayola-Washable-Markers-Different-Surfaces/dp/B001FQKPSU/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1545100326&sr=8-5&keywords=window+markers
- Engage in especially good self care. Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise, ideally in nature, which povides a shot of endorphins to elevate mood. It works. You likely won’t feel like it. Do it anyway. And forgive yourself if you don’t. Tomorrow is another day.
- Choose people with feel-good quotient. Engage with people who energize you rather than drain you. Who is that person that just thinking about them makes you smile? Connect with them regularly and avoid the others. Let them know you need their company this holiday.
- Choose mindful. Holidays during divorce can tempt you to numb the pain through alcohol or drugs. But indulging when you’re already distressed can heighten emotions which then show up as angry acting out or emotional erruptions. So engage wisely and set your boundary ahead of time–how much, where, with whom–and identify the designated driver. You’re dealing with enough right now. Don’t add a DWI to your Christmas memories this year.
- Volunteer. Nothing resets a mindset off of ourselves more than being with truly needy people. Check with your church or civic organization or domestic violence shelter. Stepping back from your own difficulties will be a huge relief, even if only momentarily. Helps a lot with #3.
- FOMO. Recognize when Fear of Missing Out is at work, observe it in operation, and choose your response. Your friends don’t always live their Facebook or Instagram lives either. This can be the year you simplify, choose contentment and an unhurried life, reveling in the small moments of grace and joy.
- Consider a new holiday normal. You may have traditions that were mainly your former partner’s idea of a good time but you were never really that into it. They can be tossed. I’ve never had an “Elf on the Shelf” but always thought it looked like fun. I just learned about English Christmas Crackers, rolled up paper at each place setting that “pops” when opened to find a small gift, jokes and hats inside. Midnight mass, whether you’re Catholic or not, might appeal. The point is: traditions always had a beginning somewhere and can be discarded or added at anytime.
- Forgive. And then forgive again. Yourself as well as others. Actually, it’s necessary to forgive constantly because “not only is everyone screwed up but every screws up,” as Anne Lamott reminds us.
Wishing you wisdom and joy this holiday season,