How to Manage the Holidays During a Divorce

divorce during the holidays

divorce during the holidaysThe holidays are here, and this joyous time of the year can feel overwhelming during a divorce. The stress of the holidays—along with your loss and pain—can feel amplified under such circumstances. Often, the holidays can be a painful reminder for couples going through a divorce.

You don’t have to feel anxious about the holiday festivities despite this difficult time in your life. Although the holidays can feel like a burden while going through a divorce, you can survive the jolly season while still managing your stress and loss.

Here are five ways you can successfully manage the holidays during a divorce!

  1. Make a Plan

Planning your holiday season as much as you’re able to can help immensely. If you and your ex are sharing custody of the kids, decide in advance which days each of you will have the children. Reassure your children that you’ll be fine during the time they’re away, and encourage your kids to spend time with your ex. Letting them know you’re happy about their time with the other parent can be hugely comforting for them!

For yourself, set boundaries with friends and family if needed. Don’t commit to plans you know you won’t be able to attend or enjoy. By saying no, you can proactively plan your holiday and comfortably manage the events you do choose to attend or the tasks you know you can do and that will bring you joy.

  1. Don’t Have Holiday Expectations While Going Through a Divorce

There can be a lot of perceived pressure to have a good time during the holiday season. But let’s be realistic—going through a divorce often makes you feel as if you’d rather not go anywhere or do anything, let alone have a good time while doing so.

You can and should still go out; however, refrain from having expectations. Instead of telling yourself, “I will have a great time!” or “This will be awful,” be open minded. Accept that you’re going through an immensely difficult time as the result of your loss. Don’t expect anything out of events or the holidays in general. By being realistic, you may be surprised!

  1. Reach Out for Support

The holidays are a busy time for everyone. Your support system is likely no exception—but this doesn’t mean you can take this opportunity to isolate yourself this time of year! Ask for help when you need it. Keep a list of phone numbers of people who can offer you support—they may be friends or family, or even a clergyperson or counselor.

Part of asking for support may mean going out. Go to dinners or parties that friends invite you to, if you can manage it with your schedule. Find a divorce support group in your area. Spend time with close friends and family, people who can make you feel good again. If you’re sharing custody of the kids and find yourself alone and upset, pick up the phone and call a friend!

  1. Take Care of Yourself

Don’t isolate yourself during this difficult time. Divorce is hard enough as it is, so you need to take care of yourself to make it through this. Relying on alcohol or drugs will only numb your feelings and make you feel worse later. Right now, there are proactive things you can do to take care of yourself during the holidays. They include:

Think of things to be grateful for. Everyone has something to be grateful for. If you’re in good health, have your children, and have a home to live in, feel gratitude and appreciate these simple but important things about your life. Make a gratitude journal and each day write down at least one thing you’re thankful for.

Exercise. Research has proven that exercise lifts your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, your “happy” hormones that can instantly make you feel better. Do something you enjoy, whether it’s jogging, yoga, or dancing. Join a local gym or sign up for classes and get those endorphins pumping!

Get out. It can feel tempting to stay at home during the holidays when you’re going through a divorce—in fact, it may feel like the only thing you can do. However, you should get out of the house when you’re not with the kids. It doesn’t matter if you make a solo shopping trip, have coffee with a friend, or attend an office holiday party. You’ll feel better!

Get away. If you can’t stand the idea of going through the holidays alone or truly feel as though you can’t manage it, schedule a trip to get away if you can. Book a weekend at a spa, take a retreat, or just go on a trip. This time can be refreshing, relaxing, and stress-free when you just can’t handle it all.

  1. Make New Traditions

New Year, new life! It’s time to forge your way into the future by creating new holiday traditions, whether it’s by yourself or with your children. Have your kids help you create new traditions, and be encouraging about this new and scary time away from their other parent. Have some fun together. Go ice skating, bake cookies, or take a new trip together.

The New Year is also a time for you to focus on yourself and reflect on your separation from your spouse. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, make new traditions and practice self-love and care. Whether you and your spouse practice conscious uncoupling or just want to part ways as best you can, it’s a New Year and a new start for you and your family.

This holiday season, you can manage your time and stress well even while going through a divorce. Make plans so you don’t feel overwhelmed or burdened by holiday festivities. Refrain from having expectations about how the holiday season will go. Reach out for support when you need it, and take this time to take care of yourself. And make some new traditions with the kids—you can have fun and celebrate the holidays even during this challenging time.

Happy Holidays!

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