In the month of November thus far, we have had no less than 15 new consultation meetings with clients who know their marriage is over and are wondering when to start the divorce process. Many of them decided to wait until after the holidays for the children or so that their extended families would have one last holiday together. Mix that with the number of couples we are currently working with who are in the divorce process and the multitude of couples we helped walk through divorce and are finalized so far this year. In our little universe that is a lot of people dealing with sadness this holiday season, I can only imagine the numbers outside our little bubble. Add that pain to the stress and strain of trying to maintain the status quo and all the extra pressures of the holidays – that is tough! Although there are no magical solutions to cure the holiday blues, here are 10 things you can do to make it easier to cope. I used many of these tools during my own divorce which extended through a holiday season and the first year after the divorce.
1. PLAN AHEAD
Plan to do something that is fun, relaxing, and as stress-free as possible with people you really care about. When I was in the midst of my divorce I planned a Christmas trip to my brothers’ house in northern Vermont. That was literally the best holiday I had experienced in years. It was magical. I was away from my home and the stress of the divorce. I had my child that year for Christmas and was surrounded by people who loved me. I had to plan that with my family and my attorney prior to December 25. Even if you don’t have your child this year, plan to be with family or friends whom you love.
2. DO SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT
If the holidays are just too painful and the reminders are everywhere, consider a vacation that allows you to “escape ” the painful triggers. If you have never been on a cruise for Christmas or been to the Bahamas – this may be the year. I had a friend who starting going to the Grand Canyon each year for Thanksgiving and then Vegas each year for Christmas (the family-friendly part of Vegas and they were out by New Years). If travel is not an option, volunteer someplace for people who have nothing. That will not only help you forget your situation for a while, but you’ll also feel good about the help you are giving to others. We have made dollar store Christmas stockings before and handed them out to the homeless. Anything to help others will help you!
3. CREATE NEW RITUALS AND FAMILY TRADITIONS
While you may want to hold on to some of the past traditions, it’s a good idea to create some new rituals with friends and family. We started going to see different “wonderlands” with holiday lights and we took a second trip back to my brothers’ house in Vermont. We also started going to a new church and celebrating with their traditions. We adopt a child through the church each year and shop for them. We still go look at holiday lights but we added a Starbucks stop for hot cocoa along for the tradition. We created new Thanksgiving traditions by blowing off the traditional food options and eating Chinese every year with friends. You could even do something around each family member’s favorite foods and let the kids help cook.
4. REASSURE KIDS THAT HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS WILL CONTINUE, BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY
Children can help create some of the new holiday rituals and traditions. Take time to brainstorm with your children about new ideas for celebrating. I googled holiday traditions and tried out several with my daughter and we found a few we both enjoyed. Invite them to be a part of the new experience and let them find new traditions. Try different things – just stay positive in front of them.
5. ASK IF YOU ARE ACTING “IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD”
Decide ahead of time how holidays will be divided. Talk to your attorney about this if you are in the midst of the divorce. This is one area where you want to speak to your attorney as soon as possible and solidify plans for pick up/drop off and days and times you have with minor children so there are no surprises. The structure of knowing when I had my child the year we were separated provided me a lot of comfort and the ability to plan. Your attorney will know how to make that happen, just talk to him or her as soon as possible. I think it also helps to reassure kids that you will be OK while they are with the other parent.
6. ASK FOR HELP FROM SUPPORTIVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Rely on a healthy support system if you are feeling isolated, lonely or depressed. Tell your support people what you need from them (companionship, understanding, compassion, listening, etc.) My family was so helpful during this time and my friends were even more so. I could not have survived that first year of “firsts” without them. I also love Divorce Care. This group of understanding, compassion people helped me tremendously during my divorce and after.
7. BE REALISTIC
“Picture perfect” holidays are usually just an illusion. Have realistic expectations about the holiday season, especially the first year. Hallmark movies may not be the best viewing options either!
8. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Get the proper amount of sleep and exercise and eat healthy in order to maximize your ability to cope. It’s easy to overeat or party too much to medicate your pain, but in the long run, it creates more problems. Walking daily if you are not already working out can also do wonders for you.
9. SCHEDULE TIME FOR REST, RELAXATION AND NURTURING
Give yourself a break. You deserve it! A bubble bath, a long-overdue facial, a hair cut – anything to pamper yourself and nurture yourself. We have a client who recently took a woman’s only weekend spiritual retreat and it was life-changing for her. If that’s not possible, at least a good pedicure where you are not rushed and can enjoy the “me time” and the pampering. For guys, a guilt-free afternoon of golf with your best buds or a long overdue fishing trip.
10. ONE DAY AT A TIME – ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME
It will get easier. It will get better. It will hurt less. Right now, just concentrate on one thing at a time and the next right action. Just one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or stuck, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive environment in which you can gain insight, learn problem-solving skills and find solutions to dealing with the anger and pain of separation and divorce. If you need help finding a therapist that works well for you, contact us for a referral at www.divorcestrategiesgroup.com or 281-210-0057.