Divorce is an emotionally complex experience. While for many women there is some relief at ending an impossible or even abusive relationship, the dominant experience is a sense of loss.
Loss of the partner, loss of the family unit, and — when it comes to the holidays — loss and need for readjustment in life after divorce for women really comes home to you.
Holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Thanksgiving are supposed to celebrate family time and there is no way you can avoid the fact that your family is different now.
But the first holiday season is also an opportunity to start a new life after divorce for women. Here are a few useful survival tips from those who have walked this path before you.
No forced cheer
Don’t be surprised if you feel sad or angry at times — you are still going through the grieving process. And like everyone who is grieving, you need to acknowledge your real feelings. You have every right not to let others push or manipulate you into ‘forced cheerfulness.’ This, of all times, is the time to listen to yourself.
A positive new holiday experience for and with your children
If you have children, the best survival method for you and them is to take the new and perhaps painful challenges of holiday time suddenly shared (or split up) between two parental homes and the negotiations with your ex-partner and transform them into new and positive traditions.
Take the stress out of sharing
As long as the sharing arrangements are fair and in accordance with the terms of your divorce, don’t make the negotiations about the details an additional source of stress. Don’t make your children feel that they are in any way part of your problems. Instead, make exciting new plans.
If, for example, your partner ‘has’ the children for December 25, don’t insist on breaking up the celebrations and instead create your own main event on one of the other 12 days of Christmas. Why not? The children will enjoy it.
And while it is important not to avoid your own feelings, it is also important not to over-involve your children in what may be perfectly understandable jealousy and resentment towards your Ex and perhaps his new partner. Use this opportunity to create good boundaries that help to protect your children.
Alone on the big days
But whether you have children or not, being alone on one of the big days of the family holidays is a real challenge in life after divorce for women.
Turkey for one? Listening to holiday music and crying? It can feel as if the whole world is celebrating together and you are the only one who is excluded.
Here are a few suggestions how to survive these days and celebrate them in a new way:
- You may be alone today but you are probably not literally ‘out in the cold.’ So why not spend this day helping others who are? Many charities have big events on the main holidays where you will be very welcome to volunteer. You may have that shared dinner after all, but with a whole new family who really needs you.
- Accept an invitation. Not everyone flies home for the holidays. Sometimes, circles of friends celebrate together, either at home or in a restaurant. But make sure they are positive people.
- Do something special for yourself alone. If your city is even moderately multi-cultural, there will be opportunities to have a spa day or go on a mini holiday with creative or sports activities – preferably in a group of singles or with female friends.
- If you have more time to yourself, why not go on vacation to a different country, join a working holiday as a foreign volunteer, or sign up to learn a new skill.
What all these suggestions have in common is that life after divorce for women is not just a struggle for survival, you are laying the foundations for a whole new chapter of your life story.
One day you will look back on this first year and remember how many of your new traditions, skills, and friendships originated right here, right now.