I recently read that holidays can bring out “all the feels” – the good, the sad and the stressful. Let’s face it, holidays are stressful enough married, once you throw a separation or divorce into the mix it’s a whole new level of stress and sadness.
I think back on my first holidays after being separated and will share what I did that I think worked for me, in the hopes that it helps you a bit.
- Know your limitations. My husband and I were separated at Christmas and my kids didn’t know yet. We decided to not tell them until after New Years, in hopes that they wouldn’t associate the season with the separation. With that being said, all the other adults were aware of the situation, and I knew I didn’t have it in me to spend Christmas Eve with them. I wasn’t trying to be selfish, I knew if I went and couldn’t hold it together, my kids would remember me crying on Christmas Eve! So that particular holiday, I sat at home eating Chinese food alone while my kids were off having fun with their dad. It sucked for me big time, but I knew it was the right decision for the kids and for me.
- Do not freak out about holiday traditions being ruined by divorce. Often when we think of traditions, we only focus on the huge ones, like where you eat the holiday dinner. But don’t forget about all the little things that go with the holidays that are just as, and maybe even more important. For example, every year maybe you watch a certain holiday movie with your kids. Maybe you make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Maybe you go out for drinks with your girlfriends near the New Year. Think of all the things you do with your kids, your friends, your relatives, your coworkers and focus on those. Just because you’re going through a divorce doesn’t mean you can’t participate in your co-workers Yankee Swap, or your neighbors ugly sweater party. Figure out what things you can continue as a tradition, and then have a positive attitude about new traditions you can make. If you’ve always gone to your in-laws house for Thanksgiving dinner, come up with a fun alternative. You know they serve dinners at some amazing restaurants and hotels, and then you get the bonus of no clean up!
- Distract yourself. My first Easter without my kids sucked. I’m just going to be honest. My ex-husband and I decided to alternate Easter and Thanksgiving, so I only have my three kids every other holiday. My kids were really little and I missed getting to wake up and do Easter egg hunts and dress them up in clothes they didn’t want to wear, and eat lots of candy at 8am. So what I found myself doing was distracting myself by default. I went to my mother’s house. All my cousins were there with their kids and I was there just alone feeling sad. I ended up doing an incredible job on clean up duty, spending much of the afternoon at the kitchen sink washing dishes. It sounds horrible (and I hate doing dishes!) but it’s exactly what I needed at the time. I was more focused on scrubbing pans than wondering what my kids were doing and it kept me from being sad, at least for the period of time. Starting new and maybe fun traditions for the holidays after a divorce can be a good thing!
I still get sad on the holidays that I don’t have my kids. Thanksgiving is bittersweet when what I’m most grateful for isn’t with me. I hate not waking up with my kids on Christmas morning every other year. And it doesn’t seem right if I eat Cadbury mini eggs by myself on Easter morning at 7am. But what I do know, is that my kids are having a blast when they are not with me. They have established new post-divorce holiday traditions with their dad that they enjoy. And I love that they are happy. You are going to be happy too. It may take some time. But it’s not a race. I am proof that sharing holidays after divorce IS doable and even enjoyable and you WILL get there!
Wondering how to handle other big family events? Check out this article on birthdays.