Holidays after divorce or separation can be hard to navigate, especially that first year. Even if it’s decided where the kids are going to be, there is so much more that goes into it—especially emotionally. Perhaps you are sad that you won’t be all together, doing the things you always do. Perhaps you are relieved that he’s not there sabotaging things and causing more stress. Perhaps your emotions are a mixed bag.
If it’s your first year apart, and everything is still fresh and raw, and your young children are with him, not at home with you—or if you have grown ones, and they are with him or others—it is totally ok to take this time to grieve and process your loss, of what was or what you’d always hoped would be. But isn’t not now, and won’t be.
You may feel like being alone. You may definitely not want to be alone. You may want to have the comfort of being with others, but also need some downtime by yourself. Whichever or all of the above, be kind to yourself. And know you will get through this, and better days are ahead.
If prefer to be alone to work out your feelings:
- Especially if this is your first year, you may want to: Stay in bed, cry if you need, Journal
- Watch TV
- Take bubble bath —complete with chocolate and candle, and maybe even a glass of wine
- Order in dinner—or buy something ahead of time that is pre-made
- Buy flowers for your table. Buy a real Christmas gift for yourself
- If any restaurants are open, go —yes, alone. It really is ok. Perhaps somewhere nicer than you are able to take your children to
- Get a puzzle, or other hobby project, to work on
- Go to a movie at the theatre. They tend to be open on holidays now
- If you don’t have kids that will coming home that day, go out of town and stay in a hotel. Order room service, or go down to their nice restaurant
If you don’t want to be alone, but prefer to be around others:
- Find a friend or a few to get together with. Go out to dinner or have a potluck get together. Maybe play some games or watch a movie. Or perhaps a friend’s family, if that won’t be harder emotionally for you
- Find out what organizations in town are serving holiday meals. If they are open to the public, go
- Volunteer to help serve at one of those dinners
- Go to a community holiday event. A parade, participate in a “run”, a holiday display, …
If your children will be with you, try not to dwell on the loss, but rather on new beginnings. Acknowledge whatever feelings they are having, and validate them. But also live in the present. Things are different now, but that doesn’t mean worse, or that the holiday isn’t worth enjoying time together.
- Do some familiar things that you and they enjoy, that make it “feel” like the holiday
- Create new traditions, and make new memories—try to think of something that each individual will enjoy
- Invite grown children, other family, or friends to join you
- Do things besides just eat together. Play games, watch a movie, go out—any of the things on the lists above that are appropriate
- Including getting together with another single mom and her kids
- Scale that meal down, if you are used to big family events, with many people bringing food, and now it’s just you and the kids, fix only the true favorites of each person—perhaps you’ll only have turkey legs, stovetop stuffing, and pie. That’s ok!
- You may need to take some time out to “go have a cry”. That’s ok. Try to move on from there. If tears well up, let your kids know, I’m sad that we aren’t doing what we’ve done before, but it’s ok. We’ll get through this, and create new happy memories
A couple things that were not new traditions, but became especially good to be sure to include in our first years out were:
Thanksgiving: We read the poem 5 Kernels of Corn, about the starving winter of the Pilgrims, that is the reason for Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. We place 5 kernels of dried corn on each plate or in individual nut cups. Before dinner is served, we go around the table, each person telling 5 things they are thankful for, while counting out their kernels.
Christmas: We do an Advent/ Christmas Countdown, with activities for each day. Some very simple—Have hot cocoa with marshmallows, or sing Christmas carols. Others our traditions—Go look at Christmas lights, or put out the nativities. You may need to think ahead for some that need to be on a specific day—Go to the church Christmas program, or a concert. And may want to include one or 2 extra nice ones—Go out to dinner, or to a movie. And doing things for others: Put together shoeboxes filled with gifts for Samaritan’s Purse, or donate to a food drive.
Whatever you choose to do, choose it—with intention. Happy times and memories are made. They don’t just happen naturally. Try to look forward not back. A new life is coming. One with Liberty and Happiness! You can do this!
Happy Holidays are coming! Perhaps not so much this year, but they are coming, and you are the one that will make them happen. You can start taking small steps toward that this year.
Living Coram Deo & freely whole
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