Celebrating the holidays as a divorced person – especially when it’s soon after the separation – can be an awkward affair at best, and a minefield of drama at worst.
But while it might take some getting used to, the holidays doesn’t have to be a season of unpleasantness; in fact, there are many things you could do to turn it into a time of healing, empowerment, and rebuilding.
Here are some of those things:
1. Plan a few months ahead
It might be difficult to plan for the holidays when you’re divorcing, but having something to look forward to can help give you (and your kids, if you have them) an anchor. Planning ahead doesn’t always mean being the head of festivities; fundamentally, what this means is getting real with yourself.
Take some time to sit down and think about what the holiday would look like for you, and identify which traditions or commitments you will be comfortable taking on. Get clear on your limits, articulate what you want out of the holidays, and prepare for some adjustments or negotiation – especially if your plans involve any kids you may have with your ex.
2. Don’t feel bad about saying no
It is one thing to identify your limits, and quite another to honor them. By saying no to engagements that you will not enjoy or commitments that you would rather not keep, you can make more time and space for the ones that will actually help you enjoy the holiday festivities.
Remember: you can’t and don’t have to please everybody. Part of the holidays is about having fun, and that includes you, too!
3. Avoid awkward parties by discussing options with your ex
Sometimes, it’s inevitable that some well-meaning mutual friend or relative will invite both you and your ex to a party. But sometimes, you and your ex are simply not on good enough terms to enjoy the party together. If you are in a good enough place to discuss this with your ex, or maybe with a mediator or therapist present, you can discuss attendance with your ex and avoid conflict later on.
For example, you can agree to not attend each other’s family gatherings, or alternate going to mutual friends’ parties. Whatever you decide, remember that your setup doesn’t have to be forever, and that it can change as your relationship with your ex evolves.
4.Welcome new traditions
One of the most daunting but exciting aspects of divorcing is opening your world to new traditions. Inevitably, and especially when you have kids together, some family traditions may become impossible to continue. This is an opportunity for you to create something new for you and your family.
Starting new traditions can not only help heal your family members, but also give younger children a consistent event to look forward to every year.
5. Whatever the form it may take, have fun
For a lot of us, the holidays might mean making the effort to be there for family and friends. While it’s true that it’s a season of giving, it doesn’t mean we can only give to others. It is also important to give to yourself.
So after (or even during) the flurry of parties and gifts for the people in your life, don’t forget to do something for yourself, too! It can be a simple as a purchase you’ll get yourself as a gift, visiting family or friends that you haven’t seen in a long time, or even taking some alone time and having a staycation by yourself. No matter the size or duration of your “personal” holiday celebration, taking the time and effort to have it is a great form of self-care.
Sometimes, the holidays can make it extra challenging to cope with your post-divorce life. But the holidays can also give you a chance to transform negative into positive, and to make what’s bad or ‘just okay’ into something better.
Remember that you are allowed to take it at your own pace, and that ultimately, you have the power to make the holidays as festive as you want.
DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.