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12 Steps to Surviving the Holidays During Divorce

The Holidays are time for family, fun and cheer. Unless you are going through a divorce then it SUCKS. It can be a difficult time to bear. To make it less horrible, keep in mind that your mood will reflect back to you by those around that love you the most. I don’t mean to say slap on a fake smile and cry alone… but, when it comes to your emotions they are best dealt with alone, not in front of your kids.

Take the time to feel your way through the pain when you need to. Stuffing down your feelings will only make them spring up on you by surprise later.

During the rest of the time, use these tips as a guide to make your Holidays a lot more bearable.

1. Give a daily dose of gratitude. Use a journal and write down 5 things you are grateful for each day. It can be as simple as the grocery store had that unique spice you wanted for the cookies and you saved a trip to the specialty store. Or… maybe your friend offered to watch your kids so you could wrap some presents. Big or small, expressing and acknowledging gratitude will make you a happier person.

2. Celebrate yourself. If you have a hard time getting into the Christmas Spirit think about it as the season of YOU. Do one thing special for yourself leading up to Christmas. Get a massage, buy yourself a beautiful poinsettia, binge on your favorite shows on Netflix that your Ex used to hate watching. Guess what? You don’t have to share the remote anymore! Indulge in your favorite desert, or check out that spin class you keep meaning to go to. Tis the season to celebrate you, make that a priority!

3. Set loving boundaries. When you set a boundary you do it for your own sanity. So if the Ex keeps walking into the house that you no longer share with him, tell him he needs to ring the doorbell and wait for you to answer. Let him know the consequence if he does not follow this rule, maybe it is “I will change the locks.” Then, if he fails to adhere to this boundary, change the damn locks. You will be glad you did and it sends a message to him loud and clear that you will not tolerate disrespect.

4. Don’t be a hostage to your old traditions. If you used to go out for a tree lighting ceremony or Mass every Christmas Eve, it does not mean you have to do that this year. Your kids will be more open to new traditions and activities than you imagine. Brainstorm new ideas that you can make tradition. Like watching your favorite Christmas movie and baking cookies for Santa.

5. Get Courageous about getting social! If your friends invite you to a Christmas party, go. If your company has a holiday party, go. If there is any party anywhere and you know about it, go. Don’t bring a date. If anything go alone or with a girlfriend. Meeting new people and growing your social circle is a must! Plus when you immerse yourself in new groups of people, you get to be the version of “you” that you want to be. You have no social pressures of being what others expect of you, so have fun!

6. Be mysterious! And by be mysterious, I mean that if your Ex asks you what your plans are say “Don’t worry, I have plans.” And then DON’T share. The best revenge is the kind where you seem to be getting along oh so well. Too well. Same with family, they can mean well but also get on your nerves by being too nosy. Turn down babysitting for your sister and let her know you have “plans” even if it is for a date with Netflix.

7. If you are sharing the kids, plan in advanced. Create the schedule in advanced so that you can plan around when you have them. Also it gives the kids an idea of what to expect during the holidays. Make sure that when you do not have them, you are filling your own social calendar!

8. Simplify. Did you dread getting that huge tree out every year? Ditch it for a newer, lighter and modern model. Or pare down to one of those small 3 foot trees that come in a box already prelit, fluff and plug in. Anything you used to dread, DELETE from your schedule. Don’t do it because you always did it and it’s a tradition. Create something new, easier, and more fun to do instead of the dreaded old ways you did before. Your kids would love a small tree that ONLY has their handmade ornaments on it. They would be more proud to show them off than a 12 foot tree that looks like Martha Stewart decorated it.

9. Re-write your story. You know the story you tell about why you are getting a divorce… everyone wants to know. Guess what? It is none of their business. Write a story that you feel good sharing. No one feels good saying “he cheated on me.” It makes him look bad and you look like a scorned woman. So re-write it with “it’s none of their business” in mind. I used to say “we just weren’t a good match and couldn’t make it work.” That was always enough and I kept my dignity in tact.

10. Buy yourself your Christmas present. When I was married to my ex, he pretty much nailed it on “what not to buy me.” Or he would simply not buy me anything at all. I even gave him a list of books I wanted one year. Hello, is it too much to spend $24 on me? Apparently it was. So go put together a thoughtful and meaningful gift that you would like to receive from someone. And give it to yourself. It can be a pretty new right hand ring, or a basket of yummy bath salts, a book, and some wine. Whatever it is, fully enjoy receiving it and be sure to thank yourself.

11. Do something for others that are less fortunate than you. Find a single mother through your local shelter (likely it will be anonymous). You can give household items and presents for her young child. Imagine her gratitude for the gifts that you gave her. Or volunteer your service at the food pantry, or other charitable organization. There is NOTHING on this earth that will make you feel better about your misfortunes than to help others overcome theirs.

12. Get a head start on your New Years Resolutions! Do you think you will resolve to weight loss? It doesn’t hurt starting that exercise class now while it is still December and likely few people are attending. Don’t be part of the herd on January 1st when everyone hits the gym. Commit now. Did you want to start another kind of class? Find it and register. It may not start until the new year but at least you will be mentally prepared for it and by registering you are committed!

So go ahead, have some fun this Holiday season, there is no rule that says you should be sad all the time. Your loved ones want to see you smile once in awhile, and you deserve to. Practicing these tips on your good days will help you create more resilience and joy in your future.

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