The holiday season can be triggering for those who are grieving a loss, whether it be the loss of a friend, loved one, or life season. If you recently underwent a divorce, separation or break-up, you may be struggling to accept, let alone survive, the rapidly approaching holiday season.
If you’re preparing for your first holiday season alone, you may be wondering what to expect and how to cope. If “positive thinking” and other cliché advice just isn’t doing the trick, keep reading to learn 7 helpful tips to ring in the New Year as a healthier, stronger version of yourself.
Your first Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa after ending a marriage or relationship can be tough. It can be overwhelming to feel loneliness, despair, anger, and other unpleasant emotions—especially during a time that’s supposed to be festive and cheerful.
A season intended to celebrate togetherness and love can feel like a sucker punch to the gut for those who are mourning the loss of a relationship. It's important to keep in mind that grief knows no bounds.
Experiencing the death of a loved one isn’t a requirement to grieve losses in our lives. Sometimes, we can find ourselves missing the people we choose to leave behind—even when we’re confident that it was the right decision.
7 Tips to Stay Merry as a Divorcee This Christmas
While preparing for your first Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa as a divorcee can feel like a death sentence, there are ways to make it easier on your mental and emotional wellbeing. While there is no “magic fix” or way to fast-forward to years ahead when you’re feeling better, rest assured that there are ways to be less miserable this holiday season.
Consider these 7 tips to prioritize your health and survive your first holiday season post-divorce/relationship.
#1. Reflect on what you need from friends and loved ones this year (and don’t forget to relay the message).
Everyone responds to grief differently. Some people submerge themselves in family gatherings, events, and social circles after experiencing a loss. Others prefer to hibernate until they have a chance to work through their feelings.
Whatever the case, it’s important to 1) take time to reflect on your personal needs and 2) relay the message to friends, family, and loved ones who can help.
This isn’t to say that you owe your friends and family an explanation for every decision you make, but it’s difficult to obtain the support you need without admitting that you need it in the first place. If you need space, tell them so. If you need company during an errand run, say that. If you need to turn off your phone for the day, it’s okay to notify your loved ones that you’re taking a social breather.
Communicating your needs and expectations with people you care about will help them care for you, too.
#2. Acknowledge that there’s nothing you’re “supposed to” do or feel.
It’s okay if your 25 days of Christmas or 8 nights of Hanukkah feel all over the place this year. While counting down the days until Santa arrives can build consistent excitement and joy as a kid, it’s normal to experience more ups and downs as an adult.
Some days may be tougher than others. It's okay to acknowledge that and understand that there is no right or wrong way to experience the holidays. There isn't something wrong with you for not hitting certain milestones when you think you should, or not feeling what you're "supposed to" feel during the holidays.
Maybe you “thought” you’d be excited to travel and see family this season, but you’re not. Maybe you’re experiencing guilt for feeling ambivalent about not seeing your kids on Christmas Eve for the first time.
Whether your beliefs and expectations stem from personal goals or manifested after reading self-help books and psychology articles, it’s healthy to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you need to feel—regardless of how well they fit into societal expectations. Your experience is valid, your timeline is perfect, and you deserve patience and compassion to heal.
#3. Do something you don’t want to do every once in a while.
Compassion and validation during healing are essential, but so is getting out of your comfort zone. This isn't to say that you should live on the edge all the time, but every once in a while, breaking a serial chain of “no’s” can lead to something wonderful.
Pushing yourself to try new things and be vulnerable contributes to our growth, empathy, and self-confidence as humans. The next time you catch yourself giving a reflex “no”, stop and ask yourself these 3 questions:
- What do I want right now?
- Why do I want that?
- What do I need right now?
It's healthy to acknowledge your wants, but going a step further in acknowledging why you want it can shed light on potential underlying motives. Maybe your best friend has been badgering you to go out for over a week, but you’ve stuck to holiday movies on your couch. While you may want to avoid seeing friends or hanging out in social settings, it may not be what you need.
A good way to tell is by figuring out why you want it. Would more alone time truly benefit your mental wellbeing, or would you stand to benefit more from spending quality time with your best friend?
Remember, human connection is a foundational part of our health, healing, and happiness.
#4. Plan ahead.
Whether you’re Type A, Type B, or a bit of both, planning can be a very beneficial skill during the holidays, especially for those who have suffered a recent loss.
Anxiety and depression are commonly experienced during a grieving period. Planning ahead can help. Making plans can:
- Give you something to look forward to
- Help you establish new routines and traditions
- Create healthy habits
- Improve your relationships
- Help you move forward one step at a time
- Hold you accountable to follow through
- Reduce anxiety by giving you clear expectations
Walking into something unknown is scary for anyone. If you're preparing for your first holiday season alone, it can be worrisome to think about all the uncertainties, such as seeing your ex-in-laws again, how to behave around your ex-spouse, what to tell friends who don't know about your divorce, or how your mom may embarrass you after her second cup of mulled wine.
Obviously, there is no foolproof way to know everything that will happen this holiday season. But planning ahead can help restore your sense of control and actively prioritize your mental health this holiday season.
#5. Start each day with a willingness to experience.
Staying open to new opportunities is a hallmark divorce tip. As you’ve probably realized already, “Getting out and trying new things!” is Divorce 101, at least according to the internet. But in a simpler sense, the mere act of waking up each day with a willingness to experience can be just as fulfilling, if not more so.
It can be nerve-racking to endure day-to-day life as a recently divorced person. Maybe you’re just waiting to run into that blabbermouth coworker at the grocery store. Maybe you’ve been staring at your phone, waiting for your in-laws to call and say how disappointed they are. Maybe you’re expecting dirty looks from your ex’s friend circle the first time you accidentally run into them at a bar or restaurant.
Whatever the case, starting each day with a willingness to experience can free you. It can allow you to move through life without being in a constant war with your fear or anxiety and help you embrace each moment with acceptance and calmness. Practicing mindfulness can remind us that worrying is harmful in large quantities, as it involves an infinite power struggle to control the world around us—a battle we’ll never win.
Instead of fighting to control the people and events around you, consider freeing yourself to experience whatever happens next.
#6. Pay attention to triggers and practice self-care.
During the holidays, you may discover that little things can unearth buried memories. In some cases, certain “triggers” can cause painful memories or intrusive thoughts to surface in our minds.
A trigger (also called a stressor) can lead to an adverse emotional reaction. Learning about triggers can be immensely helpful while trying to survive your first holiday season post-divorce/relationship. It can be beneficial to know:
- What triggers you specifically; and
- How the trigger impacts you.
Triggers can be as small as catching a whiff of chocolate on the street or seeing a certain pattern of wrapping paper on the shelf. Maybe your favorite Christmas movie makes you an emotional wreck this year when it usually makes you laugh. Maybe that holiday cocktail you always make tastes “off” this year and makes you uneasy.
No matter what triggers you, making a mental note of it can help you protect yourself from preventable harm and unpleasant experiences, such as panic attacks or flashbacks.
#7. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
As humans, we aren’t designed to navigate life alone. It’s important to seek help when you need it, whether that means investing in professional mental health services (like counseling or group therapy) or leaning on friends and family.
As awkward and scary as it can feel to turn to loved ones when you’re not feeling your best, rest assured that the people who care about you want to know when you’re hurting. They also want to help, whether it’s just keeping you company by the Christmas tree this year or being your plus-one at an office holiday party.
It’s crucial to prioritize your healing by acknowledging that you weren’t meant to do it on your own. Try to lean on the right people to support and encourage you through this difficult season.
We’re Here to Help You Navigate Life’s Darkest Seasons
At the Law Offices of Andrea Schneider, our compassionate divorce attorneys are proud to serve families in La Mesa, San Diego, and the surrounding areas. We know how emotionally devastating it can be to undergo a divorce. We also recognize that legal proceedings are just the start of the road to healing for many divorcees. That's why our firm is committed to making the process as straightforward and efficient as possible.
You can count on our experienced La Mesa divorce lawyer to guide your steps from start to finish. Our compassionate team provides affordable legal services designed to accommodate your unique needs and goals. When you partner with us, you’re partnering with devoted family law advocates who will work tirelessly to achieve the favorable outcome you deserve. Don’t settle for less than the dependable legal representation and customized legal solutions you require to create a better, brighter future.
Filing for divorce in La Mesa? You don’t have to make the journey alone. Turn to a firm you can trust to keep your best interests at heart. Call (619) 304-8499 or contact us online today to request a free consultation.