Guide to Navigating the Holidays for the Newly Divorced
Getting Through the Stress of Your Divorce
Since the beginning of the 20th century, divorce rates have steadily risen, making an even greater leap in the 1970’s when no-fault divorce was implemented. Some believe that making divorce an easier process actually strengthens marriages by ensuring it is a personal choice. Others argue few of us have the skills needed to work out the day-to-day difficulties which inevitably arise in most all marriages. While it is true that the actual dissolution of a marriage is a legal act, it is most often accompanied with some level of emotional trauma, and can be painful for all parties involved, including spouses, children, and even extended family members.
Any way you look at it, most every divorce brings some level of stress to those involved. However, when a divorce is contentious, stress levels can be nearly overwhelming. Most couples who have finally made the decision to go forward with a divorce have likely been suffering through various problems and issues for a considerable amount of time. While it might seem that once the decision to divorce is made, the decision-making is over, the truth is that this is only the first step in a long litany of potentially explosive disputes. When it seems there is virtually no way both parties will agree on issues surrounding the division of assets or child custody, divorces can potentially drag on for years.
Dealing with the Aftermath of Your Florida Divorce During the Holidays
Any time a major change in our lives takes place, stress will naturally follow. After all, it is our human nature to resist change. Even though you may fully realize that a divorce is absolutely necessary in order to restore balance and happiness to the lives of everyone involved, changes of this magnitude often bring fear and a sense of powerlessness. This is magnified during the holiday season when depression and stress levels naturally spike. Even though stress is certainly a natural part of the holidays—perhaps now, more than ever—it is important to reduce the amount of holiday stress you and your family may be feeling. Why do the holidays bring extra stress for divorced couples? Newly divorce couples can set unrealistic expectations on themselves to make the holidays a great one for their kids. No doubt the children are experiencing a sense of loss during the holidays – especially if they are spending less time with one of their parents. This can create extra stress and anxiety for the parents. If you and your ex are not seeing eye-to-eye on handling the holidays after a divorce, this can also create a tremendous amount of stress.
Grieving the Loss of Your Marriage During the Holidays
Not only is a divorce demanding, establishing a new identity as a single individual involves the loss of a relationship which was—at least at one time—very important to you. The longer you have been married, the more difficult it may be for you to let go of the relationship, even though it may no longer be working on any level. The truth is, not everyone handles change in the same way.
During the holidays, it is natural to grieve the loss of your marriage – even if you are not unhappy about the divorce. Being single, being alone, or being without your children during the holidays can be sad – even if you know it is the best thing for everyone involved. If you are newly divorced, the holidays may not look the same. This can create stress and anxiety as you attempt to navigate this new life. During this time, surround yourself with friends and family members and start new traditions on your own.
Tips for Handling a Stressful Divorce During the Holidays
Even if you feel you are especially well-equipped to handle the trials of a contested divorce, remember that this is not the time to be stoic. Reach out to others, including friends, family and professionals who can listen to you without passing judgment, and allow you to feel safe voicing your emotional trials. Journaling can be a lifesaver during these times—when you feel you are simply unable to deal with one more problem, write down all your issues of the day as well as why you feel unable to cope. Then later, look at your writings and try to think of one small way you can ease the pain of one problem. Keep it small, as huge goals of this nature are often unobtainable, leaving you feeling like a failure on top of everything else.
Getting organized in your life can also make a huge difference in your stress levels during the holidays. Sit down and make a comprehensive list of all the things you need to accomplish, then break that list down into priorities. Don’t make this list simply about cleaning out the attic or talking to your lawyer yet again, but make spending quality time with those who love you and make you feel safe and secure a priority.
Don’t neglect your health during this stressful time—do your best to get plenty of rest and eat a healthy diet. Many people going through particularly stressful events find that meditation and exercise can help, while others remember that music is good for the soul and dance around the room to their iPod tunes to shake away a bad mood. Rekindle an old hobby, or better still, find a new, interesting one. When all else fails remember that this too shall pass, and that in the future these hard times will be only a memory.
Navigating the Holidays When Your Divorce is Recent
While divorce is difficult any time during the year, the holidays can be particularly rough, especially for the newly divorced. There are a number of tips which can help you get through this time of year—when it can seem as though everyone around you is basking in the joy of the season except you—including:
- Money is typically a big issue for the newly divorced. You have probably gone from two salaries to one, and you may feel the squeeze of diminished finances, particularly during the holidays. If you can, start a holiday fund and try putting a specific amount of money into the fund every time you are paid. This will help ease the financial burden of buying gifts, particularly if you have children. Do your best to avoid going into debt, as that will only leave you more depressed when the holidays are over, and you owe a ton of money. Try making some Christmas presents, and let adult friends and family know that you simply cannot afford Christmas presents this year, and would prefer just spending some quality time with them.
- If you were married for a significant length of time, you probably had a number of holiday traditions. It can be disheartening to realize you no longer have your spouse to engage in those traditions with you. Now is the time to make new traditions. If you have children, ask each of them for an idea of how they would like to spend the holiday season. Add your own ideas, and have some fun this year. There are plenty of activities that cost little to nothing, and will leave your children with memories they will never forget. If your children will be with their other parent for the holidays, it can be especially difficult, but try to plan your new traditions on another day of the year. Christmas does not necessarily have to be celebrated on the 25th, and children only care that they have your love and attention.
- If you do have the children for the holidays, consider the other parent’s feelings about not being with the children. No matter how the two of you ended your divorce, always remember that you are both parents to your children, and that the children need both parents. Take the children shopping to purchase a gift for their other parent, and make sure the children call their other parent during the holidays, especially on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Remember that next holiday season you could be the parent spending the holidays alone, and try to do what you would want your ex to do for you.
- Think Adventure! Plan an adventure for you and the children, even if money is tight. You do not necessarily have to go a long distance or stay in a fancy, expensive hotel to have fun. Plan a short excursion you can afford, which will allow you to spend some quality time with your children. Most children are pretty easy to please—they are generally just happy to spend time with you.
- Don’t sit around waiting to be invited to a party—make your own! You can invite your own friends for an adults-only party, or invite your children’s friends, along with their parents to drink hot chocolate and watch the children play together.
- While it is important to acknowledge your own feelings about your divorce and the holidays, it is equally important to remember there are many others who may be much worse off than you. Help out at a homeless shelter, see if your hospital has a program which allows you to hold and cuddle the new babies or read to the sick children. You may be surprised how much these activities can not only help others, but improve your own mood, reminding you how fortunate you are.
- Be patient with yourself. In the very best of times, the holidays can be a stressful time. If you are on your own for the first time, that stress is likely multiplied exponentially—so much so, that it can feel entirely overwhelming. Remind yourself that this is likely to be the hardest holiday season, and from here on out, it will only get easier. Try not to have unreasonable expectations, and just be patient with yourself and your children.
- Flexibility is just as important as patience. Try to remember that the holidays are not all about one specific day, rather they are about getting together, laughter and love—which can happen on any day. This may be a part of making your own traditions—Christmas on the 27th, perhaps?
- If your divorce was particularly contentious and emotional, you may have been feeling negative emotions for so long that it can feel strange to experience a positive emotion. If you find yourself feeling happy during the holidays, let it happen—you deserve happiness just as much as anyone else.
- Lose the guilt. Guilt is a counter-productive emotion. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty because your children’s holidays will be different. “Different” does not mean bad, it just means different. Feeling guilty serves no purpose, other than to make you feel bad, and you have probably spent plenty of time feeling bad. If you make the effort to embrace your new traditions, and find happiness during the holidays, your children will follow your lead.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself during the holidays. It can be tempting to crawl under the covers and stay there until the holidays are over, but do not succumb to those feelings. Make the effort to spend time with others—you will be glad you did. Also, make sure you are getting plenty of exercise, rest and good nutrition, to help you avoid the usual holiday bugs.
- Take one holiday at a time. Concentrate on getting through Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year’s rather than lumping them all together and feeling totally overwhelmed.
Divorce is never simple, even when you are absolutely sure it is the best thing for you, but around the holidays, it can seem especially complicated and chaotic. While the added stress of the holidays can lead to more arguments between you and your ex, so do your level best to avoid such confrontations. If you need to take up meditation or yoga in order to remain calm, then do so, but do not allow yourself to engage in petty arguments with your ex. Do a little planning ahead, do not set your expectations unreasonably high and be good to yourself, and you will make it through the holiday season.