Holidays after divorce can be hard because it will most likely be the first time you, as a mother, are away from or not with your children for the holidays. I won't lie — it is hard and sad, especially the first year, but it doesn't have to be doom and gloom.
I made the great mistake for a long time, holding on to negative thinking. I have to be honest: it was hard to escape. But after some hard work on myself and time spent thinking through my behaviors and actions, I was able to see that, while life and divorce is not always peaches and cream, how I view my stresses and downfalls has a lot to do with how I rise above them, and this applies to divorce and holidays. Life after divorce can be incredibly life-altering and stressful, but it can also be joyful and happy if you set out to find joy. Effectively coping with divorce at Thanksgiving time will help you not only find lots to be grateful for, but also will help the holiday without your kids be a happier one.
To start, some single moms may want to stay home and hibernate on Thanksgiving, dwelling on their grief and pain. I had a family member do this, and at the time, I didn't understand until I too went through a divorce. However, I still think rearing your face from the clouds, even if you're a more depressed version of yourself, is important. Acknowledging your sad feelings is key, but wallowing in them won't necessarily make you stronger. If you feel very awful over Thanksgiving and are struggling with the idea of seeing family or friends without your children, allow yourself some time that day to have a good cry or watch a bad movie, but then venture out to see your loved ones, even if you have to cut the night short. Sometimes being around the people we love is the best medicine out there, even if we aren't with our children. So don't carve the turkey alone.
If you absolutely cannot stand the idea of facing human beings on Thanksgiving, then declare the day a nonholiday, and stay home and be gluttonous with some of your other favorite comfort foods for a bit. Pizza or pasta perhaps? Watch bad movies, and rejoice in some chocolate. But if you can, please get up from your bed and see people!
If you have family, celebrate with them! Even though they will miss seeing your kids as much as you will, your family still wants to see you and support you. Besides, there are family members I am sure you would like to see (along with maybe a few you don't) that you don't get the chance to see very often. Even if you can only tolerate socializing for a short period of time, go to cut the turkey at the very least. Again, wallowing will not help you. Grieving is normal, but reaching out to others is a good coping-with-divorce strategy!
If you don't have family, can you count on your friends? While it's hard to ask people if you can infringe on their holiday fun, chances are they would love to have you come, and hate to have you home alone. You don't need to worry about family drama nor do you have to worry about pleasing anyone. As long as you're polite, it's OK if you're feeling a little sad and quiet. Your friends will understand.
What if you have a bunch of friends who are also on the search for somewhere to spend Thanksgiving? Even better! Make an "orphaned" family Thanksgiving at your house. Have everyone bring a dish to your place and keep it casual — plastic utensils and paper plates make this a low-key, nonstressful holiday for you. The focus can be on the food and friends, not the dinnerware, and you'll be distracted enough to not think (too much) about how you're missing the people you're the most grateful for: your kids.
Want to go above and beyond? Volunteer this Thanksgiving! Spend some of the time that you would have had for your kids, and head to a food pantry. As sad as you may be about your divorce, helping others and seeing people in a less-fortunate position than you are will not only bring your gratitude, but also great peace and joy while coping with divorce.
The holidays don't have to be hell after divorce — only if you let them. It's a matter of perspective, and tweaking yours may be the one thing you will end up being thankful for come the next Thanksgiving! Plus, your attitude is contagious: how you view life and the world is passed on to your kids: make it a great attitude!
Wishing you peace and happiness this holiday.