The Holiday season is often portrayed as a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. However, if you're navigating the turbulent waters of divorce, this time of year can bring unique challenges. At River Haven Counseling, we understand the difficulties you may be facing (year round), especially during the holidays. Even if you’re not newly divorced, often people feel loss reminders during the holiday season as they long for the warm and fuzzy feelings they once had, even if it was not with the right person. Let’s work on finding ways to not just help you ‘get through’ the holidays, but find ways to really persevere and grow.
- Acknowledging Your Feelings of Loss: Divorce is a significant life change, and during the holidays, the sense of loss can become more pronounced. It's crucial for you to acknowledge and accept these feelings, allowing yourself the space to grieve the traditions and togetherness that once defined this time of year. It is completely normal to long for the experiences you once had, even if they were with the wrong person.
Begin by acknowledging that it's okay for you to feel a range of emotions during the holiday, and likely you will. Give yourself permission to mourn the loss of what once was while recognizing the potential for new beginnings.
- Establishing New Traditions: One of the challenges of divorce during the holidays is the disruption of established traditions. Embrace the opportunity to create new, empowering traditions that align with your current circumstances and bring a sense of joy and fulfillment. Decorate that tree however you want to, watch your favorite Christmas movies without opposition. Find a ritual that brings you joy.
- Setting Realistic Expectations: The holidays often come with high expectations, and you may feel pressured to meet societal standards of festive perfection. Maybe you even set that expectation for yourself years ago. Manage those expectations, understand that it's okay for your celebrations to look different during this transitional period. It’s not to say that one day you can’t return to celebrating festively, but for now, be reasonable (and kind) with yourself.
- Navigating Custody Challenges: Divorce may also bring the challenge of potentially not having your children for the holiday, maybe even for the first time. This can be an emotionally charged situation, and it's essential to approach it with sensitivity and open communication. It is absolutely okay to share with your children that you are going to miss them and that you’re sad that you won’t get to spend the holiday with them. If you’re worried about making them your therapist, keep in mind that there is a difference between sharing your feelings with someone you care about, and making them responsible for your feelings. I don’t want your children to be responsible for your feelings, but it’s okay to be an imperfect human being, with thoughts and feelings, around them.
- Making Disclosures to Family Members: It may be that some of your family members weren’t aware that you recently divorced. It may even be that things were going well, or so they seemed, last time they saw you. Please be gracious, it’s understandably unlikely that you made a Facebook post about your recent split. Kindly explain that you recently divorced, from there you have the power to decide if you choose to disclose more or not. Not everyone needs or is appropriate for a detailed explanation. It may be helpful to have a buddy at the event that you can flag down and rescue you if you find you’re stuck in a conversation that you want to get out of.
- Seeking Support: The holiday season can intensify feelings of loneliness and isolation. Reach out to friends, family, or a support group to share your thoughts and feelings. Professional counseling can also provide you with a safe space to explore and navigate the complexities of divorce and this feeling of walking on unsteady ground.
Divorce during the holidays brings its unique set of challenges, but with self-compassion and proactive coping strategies, it's possible for you to navigate this season with resilience and grace. At River Haven Counseling, we're here to offer support and guidance as you navigate the complexities of divorce. Remember, healing takes time, and by embracing change and focusing on self-care, you can lay the foundation for a brighter, more hopeful future.