Christmas is the toughest time after separation or divorce because it’s traditionally a time for families and loved ones to come together. For many, it heightens the feelings of loneliness and highlights the fact that we are on our own when it feels like everyone else is together.
Everyone is different, and divorce and separation affects them in different ways. Some find dealing with their emotions the hardest to cope with, and for others, it’s the more practical challenges they face. Negative emotions that are manageable in everyday life can take centre stage as we have less to distract ourselves with.
I remember the pain of my first Christmas without my children. I was so preoccupied with money worries and troubled about not seeing my kids on Christmas Day that I almost turned my back on Christmas. What was the point, alone in my flat without my children? And on top of that, it would be just a waste of money when my finances were already stretched trying to maintain two homes.
But thankfully, the spirit of Christmas finally got through to me, and I went to Wilko and bought a cheap 3ft tree with lights. I might sound like a sentimental old fool, but that tree made all the difference for me. It lifted my spirits, and I got out of my doldrums and began thinking about rewriting my future. Even more importantly, when I did see my kids after Christmas, my flat felt festive and normal for the time of year – not cold and boring. Thinking back, I would never have forgiven myself if I’d not made an effort for my children’s first Christmas after the split.
7 ways to help you cope with Christmas after divorce or separation
I share this with you because I want you to know that however scary or lonely divorce seems, it’s only temporary. You will get through it, and you will be happier for it. You will be able to live life on your terms, not someone else’s. There are lots of things you can do to help you cope better over Christmas following divorce or separation. Here are my top 7 tips:
Give yourself a break
Feeling sad is a normal and necessary part of the grieving process after separation and divorce. Holding in emotions can make you physically sick – they must be released. If you try to avoid them by suppressing negative emotions and distracting yourself (perhaps through too much alcohol), they will come back to haunt you in other ways.
Surround yourself with supportive people
The people you surround yourself with play a large part in determining how you feel. So be careful and choose to spend quality time with people who make you feel good about yourself and who are positive about the future. Sometimes friends and family mean well, but they have a negative view of the world that can make you feel worse. Plan to see people who make you laugh and you look forward to being around. If you can’t find someone, consider volunteering. Often the best cure for our own problems is to focus on others. Lots of people are lonely and hungry at Christmas that could do with your help.
Create a second Christmas for your kids
I know it can seem like a huge deal not seeing your kids on the 25th of December – it doesn’t seem right and can feel unfair. But it’s just a day. I can tell you, coming up to my eighth Christmas since separation, that it doesn’t make any difference to your kids or you. In fact, my kids love having two Christmas Days! Every year they have Christmas Day on the 25th with their mum and Christmas Day on the 26th with me.
Change the way you think about it
I learned this technique when I was about 11 years old. My parents grounded me for a month, and all I could do was go to the library. While my friends were outside playing, I was reading about gravity and mechanical forces. I convinced my little brain that I was lucky to have all this time to study… Ok, maybe I was a weird kid, but the point is the way we feel is directly related to the way we think about something.
If you feel sad and hard done by, you will feel negative and put yourself in a position of a victim. Try and find the positive about your situation and focus on that. It isn’t easy, and it takes some practice, but finding the positive in any situation will have a huge impact on how you live your life.
Do something for you
Take the opportunity to plan some activities to look forward to. Maybe it’s an old interest you haven’t had the time to do or something you’ve always wanted to do. Try and find a balance between self-care, where you can rest and pamper yourself, and active times where you are socialising and having fun.
Take the opportunity to plan for 2023
If you don’t plan your life, others will plan it for you. Now is a great time to start thinking about what you would like your future to look like. What is it that you would like to achieve in 2023? What would you like to start doing? Just as important – what would you like to stop doing? What things do you do right now that get in the way of your goals? Set some goals for yourself to start your new year off in the right direction.
Get back up
To paraphrase Rocky (sorry, I’m a big fan, and I’m rewatching all the films with my son), success isn’t about how hard you punch; it’s about how many times you can get knocked down and get back up again. Or in other words, it’s not what happens to us in life that counts; it’s what we do about it that determines our quality of life. So take back control of your Christmas and decide what you want to do and how you want to feel. With some careful planning you can create a Christmas you’ll enjoy and some incredible memories to remember.