Getting through the Holidays after a Divorce
The holiday season is upon us. From Halloween through New Year’s Eve, life is business with parties, decorations, family trips, and for the newly single, agonizing months of memories of the past. For many, the holidays can be filled with pain and loneliness. Maybe this is you and your thoughts are consumed with memories of tree decorations, gift buying, laughing at your mom’s terrible jokes together. Or your memories are darker and the holidays were a time when your partner’s drinking intensified and so did the abuse. Under either scenario, the holidays might be causing you to think about finally touring that deserted island for the next few months. Before you buy that one-way ticket, I have a few ideas to help you through this first holiday season.
Divorce is Painful and it's ok to Admit that you are hurting.
There is no way to get through a divorce pain-free. No medication, meditation, or yoga class can make the process without emotional pain for both parties. People will differ on how tough the break-up can be emotionally, but everyone needs time to grieve. Don’t expect to go for a run, get a good night sleep or cry it out and then to be over it. It doesn’t work like that. Allow yourself to process the emotions honestly. Find a healthy outlet (many people choose unhealthy outlets and that just produces a second problem) like exercise, getting more involved with their church, journaling or counseling. I recommend counseling to all my clients to help them process through the divorce. Something went wrong in their primary relationship. This is going to be a problem that they need to deal with before moving on after divorce.
Spend Time with People who Support You
There are numerous support groups available to help you through this time. Spending time with people who are going through the same thing or have survived it can provide a positive outlet for your feelings. Just make sure that you spend time with people who are encouraging you to heal and move on. The last thing you need is a group of ex-spouse haters who get together with the sole purpose of bashing their former spouses. Find a community of people that you trust and will continue to support you. Don’t spend too much time alone.
Stay away from People and Places that Trigger an Emotional Response
During the initial stages of your divorce or separation, you need to identify people, places, and situations that trigger negative emotional responses. If one of your holiday traditions included watching Christmas movies with your ex-spouse, then avoid those for this year. Or if you took a trip to a local coffee for hot chocolate on Christmas Eve., with the kids and ex-spouse but the kids are with the ex on Christmas Eve, then skip the coffee shop. Remember that you are responsible for creating a healing environment and you certainly have the right to avoid emotional triggers. This may be the right year for that road trip to Grandmas’ house a few states away that you have always wanted to take for Thanksgiving if the kids are with the other parent this year.
Forgive Yourself, and Your Ex-Spouse and Hold onto Hope
The reality of any failed relationship is that both parties made mistakes. But in some cases, the mistakes are 90/10. Regards of whether you are the 90% or the 10% or somewhere in between, until you forgive yourself and your partner, then you will not be able to fully move on from the pain that the break-up caused. The good news is that once you are able to move through these emotions, then a new and better life awaits you.
I am a firm believer in second (and sometimes third) chances. Life is complicated. People are complicated. We all make mistakes but learning from them and moving on in a positive way is what makes the second chance the best chance for a truly happy ending. This process can take years. Depending on the length of the marriage and reason for the break-up, the pain can be deep and intense. Give yourself time to heal at your own pace.
Don’t give up on your recovery even if it feels like it is taking forever. So long as you have breath left, then you have life left to live. Why not live that life abundantly? Remember each day is a gift, find something to be grateful for and something to look for too and your dreams can come true again.