How to cope with the first Christmas after divorce or separation
If this is your first Christmas after a divorce or separation and you are wondering how you’ll get through it, this short guide might help. With coronavirus restrictions in place over the Christmas period, celebrations will be more challenging this year. Although there are restrictions on the number of family and friends that can get together, this should have a minimal impact on child contact arrangements because children can still move between parents.
Making contact arrangements at Christmas
The first Christmas after a separation or divorce is usually the hardest, and this can be even harder when there are children involved. It can feel like years of tradition, and happy memories have been stolen from us.
Where once the whole family spent the festive season together, now it is a stressful logistical nightmare. Practically it can be a struggle to work out the best way for parents, children and grandparents to spend quality time with each other over Christmas. Inevitably, parents will find themselves without their children for some of the holidays. And on a day like Christmas Day, this can seem like a great loss.
How can you get through Christmas without your children?
The most important thing to remember if you’re in this situation is that the children just want to celebrate Christmas with their family. Children are very flexible, and they don’t really mind what this looks like. After all, what child wouldn’t want to celebrate Christmas twice on two different days?! Be flexible, and try to focus on making it a magical Christmas for your children. Make the most of the time that you spend with them, regardless of which day this is.
Christmas is a time when families come together, and this can be very hard to face when you’re approaching the first Christmas after a divorce. Often we have developed traditions over the years, and it can be hard to accept that some of these traditions no longer apply.
But instead of longing for what once was, turn your focus to the future. Come up with some new festive activities that you can do together and find new traditions to do with your kids. Think of it as having a blank canvas to create your new perfect Christmas.
How can you overcome the loneliness of Christmas after divorce?
If you are going to spend time alone around Christmas, particularly on Christmas Day, then feelings of loneliness and sadness can rise. But rather than let these feelings drag you done, take control of the situation.
Speak to friends and family to find out what their plans are. Maybe you can spend some time with them – subject to coronavirus restrictions, at the very least plan phone or video calls to avoid feeling isolated.
If you can’t make connections with family or you can’t face them because emotions are too raw, then why not change your approach Christmas?
A lot of the pain that we feel comes from internalising our experience. A good way to reduce this is to focus externally, on others. You could look at volunteering on Christmas Day. There are hundreds of people that would be grateful for your time. Charities will have to adapt their activities this year to comply with coronavirus measures, but there will still be many opportunities out there. Refocusing your energy and spending the day helping others is a very effective way of getting through Christmas.
Staying positive over Christmas
It’s likely and perfectly normal for your emotions to run high as you come to terms with your divorce and face your first Christmas apart. Try to put any feelings of anger or resentment to one side, and instead focus on giving your children the Christmas they deserve.
Don’t get caught up in arguments or speak negatively about your ex. I know it’s hard, but keep reminding yourself that your the children just want to enjoy Christmas and spend time with their family that they love.
Having experienced my first Christmas on my own following separation, I know how sad and lonely this time can be. Not being with your children on Christmas Day feels like such a big deal. But it’s not. It doesn’t really matter what day you celebrate Christmas if you focus on creating happy experiences and memories for your children.
Some useful numbers if you need someone to talk to this Christmas
If it does get too much there are a few places that can help. A lot of charities still operate during this period and have telephone numbers that can be reached throughout the holiday season. There is always someone on hand to help.
Samaritans – Call 116 123
What Samaritans says ‘If Christmas starts to hurt, we’ll be here. We’re available round the clock every single day of the year, even Christmas day’.
Mind – Call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463
What Mind says ‘Support at Christmas. ‘If you feel unsafe, remember the emergency services are there to support you’.
Age UK – Call 0800 055 6112
What Age UK says ‘Lines are open 8am to 7pm. Every day. Even on Christmas.’
Rethink Mental Illness – Call 0300 5000 927
What Rethink Mental Illness says ‘Whether it’s struggling with anxiety, having problems with the cost of Christmas, or worrying about a loved one. No matter how bad things are, we can help, not just at Christmas, but all year.’