It’s ba-ack — the most wonderful time of the year, or the least, or, most likely, something in-between, with plenty of ups and downs. There are only a few weeks separating Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and depending on what’s happening in your life, they might seem to fly by in a whirlwind… or drag on forever.
Even under “normal” circumstances, the holidays can be an emotionally tricky time. But if you’re divorcing, the weeks ahead might seem like a real minefield. You’re on an emotional roller coaster as it is. Throw in relatives who know just how to push your buttons, happy couples seemingly everywhere you look, friends who don’t have time to get together because their own schedules are crazy, parties with colleagues and acquaintances who might ask how your husband is, and, well, it’s no wonder you might be feeling out of sorts.
I get it. It’s tempting to shut it all out and hunker down for a month of Netflix and Ben & Jerry’s… but resist! Even if it were possible, it’s not all that healthy. Instead, here are some suggestions for navigating the holiday season with your spirits intact:
1. Realize your divorce does not define you.
Divorce no longer carries the stigma it once did — it’s far too common for that! Divorce is just something that happens to some marriages, and everybody moves on. So even if your divorce feels like the biggest news of the year in your social circle, odds are, you can probably relax. You won’t be in the spotlight for longer than it takes your friend to say “Actually, Ralph and I are divorcing, too. I’m doing well, thanks! How are you?”
2. Keep your support network close.
Ideally, families are a source of strength in difficult times. However, few of us have ideal families. I often hear from clients that some loved ones actually keep at a distance during the divorce, out of disapproval, or embarrassment, or who knows why. Whatever the cause, the effect can be quite hurtful, and nothing brings it out like a family gathering.
Prepare for this in advance. Who are your go-to people for love, acceptance, support and good cheer? It’s likely a mix of family, friends and people you might not know well but who always make you feel good when you see them. Try to spend some time with these people in-between less comfortable occasions. A supportive interaction can be only a text message away!
3. Get the word out yourself.
Especially if your divorce has been a long time coming, people may be unsure what your status is, and, sensitive to your feelings, they may be reluctant to ask. You can avoid awkwardness by getting news of your divorce out ahead of the holiday parties. An announcement lets everyone know it’s official, you’re doing fine, and you’re grateful for their support through a difficult time. Set a comfortable, positive tone (steer clear of bitter or vindictive jokes), and you’ll find people at ease when next they see you.
4. Reach out.
Holidays are about people connecting with one another, but sometimes it’s hard to do. If you find yourself struggling, know that you are not alone. Remember, it doesn’t take a divorce to make the holiday season feel overwhelming. Ask for help when you need it, and offer support to people who could use a friend to lean on as well.
5. Say “no, thank you” when necessary.
Keep in touch with how you’re feeling. Too sad? Too stressed? It may be that, while you don’t want to wallow, you do need to spend some time curled up with a good book. As important as it is not to withdraw, you should also recognize the importance of down time, so make sure you find some.
6. Celebrate your new beginning.
Divorce ends your marriage, but it also represents a new beginning. Make room during holiday celebrations for a celebration of you — or plan one for the New Year! How you do it is entirely up to you. There are lots of options.
If ritual or symbolism appeals to you, you might consider a divorce ceremony. Ask your rabbi or minister for guidance, or gather friends in prayer to support you in this new phase of your life. You can even burn sage to clear your ex’s negative energy from your home! Whether your divorce ritual is deeply spiritual or just for fun, it can be a warm, self-affirming experience among friends.
Divorce parties can be good therapeutic fun. Your friends get to kick back with you, and you get to thank them for seeing you through thick and thin. For party favors, there are divorce gag gifts to suit every budget and sense of humor. If you’ve just divided a household, you might need to replace anything from glassware to bath towels. Why not register at a favorite store, and turn your divorce party into a shower?
Along those same lines, many women like to have something tangible to mark this important transition in their lives. Just as rings signified your engagement and marriage, you may find a piece of fine jewelry to signify beginning anew, now that you are divorced. This New Beginnings Necklace from New Age Charm with its lotus flower metaphor, is a lovely example.
7. Hit the road.
Sometimes, a change of scenery is the best therapy of all. Whether you steal away for a weekend retreat in the country, or go all-out with a troupe of girlfriends at a tropical resort (some even have divorce vacation packages!) there’s nothing like time away to reset your perspective on things.
8. Get back to basics.
Remember the reason for the season: No matter what your cultural tradition, it is a beautiful time to celebrate the miracles of rebirth and renewal. For the divorcing woman, focusing on those themes can make it an especially meaningful and wonderful time of the year.
However you decide to handle the holidays, keep in mind that you are not alone. You are in very good company indeed, and with a solid divorce team and a sound financial strategy for the future, you have much to look forward to in the year ahead.
Jeffrey Landers is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.