As Halloween passes and you finally finish packing away the costumes and the candy, turning the calendar to November can seem as painful as wearing a beaded thong to the gym. The holiday season becomes a catch 22 for most people who have gone through (or are going through) a divorce. You love the idea of the holidays, but your mind inevitably goes full-blown Christmas Carol on you and you’re being tortured by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Only now, he’s got a buddy: The Ghost of Christmases That Will Never Be. Is there a way to survive the holidays with your sanity (and sobriety) intact? Hold on, honey. I’ve got you covered.
1. Let go of what was. Trying to re-create what the holidays “used to be” is not only painful, it’s an exercise in futility. Accept the fact that your life has changed, and that means your holidays have, too. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be just as great; it means that they will be different.
2. Stop trying to make the holidays “Disneyland” wonderful. You’re going about this all wrong if you convince yourself you will need lights, bells and whistles to make your holiday shine. A holiday isn’t amazing because it’s decked out in all of its former glory. It’s amazing because the people you surround yourself with are happy, safe and warm.
3. Give yourself permission to suck. Your first few holidays might be really tough to get through without a few tears and growing pains. Making a dinner on your own, putting up a tree (why don’t those damned trees come with a large lumberjack to put them up?) or even hanging lights on the house might not be done “perfectly.” And that’s okay.
4. Do something different. Just because you always did it one way when you were married doesn’t mean you have to now. If you always hated vacuuming up pine needles from the carpet, it’s time to buy a faux tree, or vice versa. Make some changes in how you do the holidays and you will feel more in control.
5. Enlist help. Whether it’s hiring a company to put up the Christmas lights or buying your entire dinner from Sudbury Farms, it’s okay to admit that you can’t do it all. Once I learned to ask for help, I found that it freed up time that I could spend doing other things like eating Christmas cookies.
6. Stay away from the “Ebenezers.” Maybe it’s your great Aunt, who hasn’t said a kind (or upbeat) comment in the last sixty years. Or perhaps it’s a friend who knows you’re going through a hard divorce and thinks they’re being supportive by bringing up the past. Either way, you need to surround yourself with people who will be upbeat with you during the holidays.
7. Make new traditions. It can be something as simple as making Grandma’s sugar cookies, but it can bring comfort in its consistency. If you begin a new tradition, let your children know this is something you’re going to do every year, and then stick to it. New traditions can be hard to start, but a comfort once they get going.
8. Don’t shy away from parties. I dreaded my first Christmas party without my ex-husband. If you’re worried about going to a party solo, it’s time to break out your best dress and go full gangsta. Glam up, look your best, and have everyone saying how amazing and happy you look – yeah, even if it’s just an act. Life mimics action, so make yours positive.
9. Don’t just sit at home. In my experience, sitting around too much led to over-analyzing, which led to obsessing, which led to…well, you get the picture. Go to the town tree-lighting ceremony, a holiday festival, or craft fair…or even just go to the mall and walk around amidst Christmas lights and music. Get out and among people when you can.
10. Pamper yourself. Find something that comforts or nurtures you and then do it. If taking a long bubble bath with champagne sounds divine, knock yourself out. Treat yourself to a Christmas massage, or even a mani/pedi. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to involve anyone else (if you don’t want to). The important thing is that you give something to yourself. Just because you’re worth it.
The first set of holidays can appear to be overwhelming when you’re going through a divorce – or have just been through one. Take it one step at a time and you will survive the holidays in spectacular fashion. The holidays have changed for you, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be stellar once again. Put some cheer back in your holidays, start new traditions, and try to see this as a new beginning. Chins up, my darlings. You might even find a surprise under the mistletoe, so remember to bring your lipstick.
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