The first set of holidays after your divorce aren't easy. The fourth set of holidays after divorce aren't easy, either. But that definitely doesn't mean you won't ever have a good holiday again.
As someone who has been there and done that having long been separated from my ex, I can say that it does get easier, but it still isn't easy. In order to have a beautiful holiday without your kids or when splitting the kids up, you need to create new traditions and enlist solid coping skills. If you do this, your life after divorce will be wonderful. It won't always be pleasant, but it will be worth it. So if this is you, facing those first holidays with a new family dynamic, take heed: you are not alone, and there are many of us going through what you are about to. Here are some good tips and strategies to making the most of the festive season.
Now Is Not the Time to Be Stubborn
If your kids are not with you and you will be alone, now is not the time to be stubborn and hide away. Of course, if you want some time alone to cry on the holidays, that's OK and to be expected. It's extremely hard missing your kids. That said, don't spend the whole holiday alone. Try to create a new tradition — something you can do whenever you don't have the kids at the holidays. Maybe you and a friend go see the tree in your city. Maybe you and a group of moms get together to go holiday shopping. Or perhaps you even offer to cook some dishes in exchange for a seat at the holiday table, whether it's with friends or family.
You are allowed to be sad. You are allowed to cry. Just don't isolate yourself, please. The temptation to do so will be high, trust me. I've been there before, and it can be really destructive to your soul. Don't do it.
Make Alternative Holiday Dates With the Kids
OK, so you don't have the littles for Christmas or Thanksgiving, so does that mean the holidays can't happen? Nope! You make a day they are with you Mom's Christmas, Hanukkah, or what have you, and you create a celebration of your own. Although this is hard to adjust to, it doesn't have to be the actual calendar day to matter. Your child or children of divorce will look forward to having that "holiday, part deux" with you whenever they do miss the official day with mom.
Create a Group of Veterans
Now is the time to partner up with veteran moms of divorce. They'll understand what you are going through more than anyone. You might even want to get together with them on the holidays — the moms who are also missing littles on a special day. Join social media groups for moms of divorce, then take it beyond Facebook. Exchange numbers. Meet in person. Make friendships. Now is the most important time to do so, because as your life goes on, new issues of divorced life will surface, and you'll need a place to turn to for support and good advice.
Splurge a Little on You
You don't need to spoil your kids to make up for the divorce. Trust me, gifts don't equal love, and it won't help. But you can treat yourself. No one will be thinking to treat you or make you feel special, so why not take the time alone for a pedicure? A painting class? A visit to an old best friend? Do something that makes you feel good.
Check Your Blessings
You will feel a little sorry for yourself. That's OK. But, as you are hurting, try to check your blessings. Recall the holidays of past with your ex-partner. Was it stressful? Were there fights? Did the kids cry? Did you cry? Did you deal with difficult in-laws? Those things are in the past. You have a new start. It might not be sunshine and kittens 24/7, but it is your new life to make the most with. It could always be worse. Even if you are a financially struggling mom of divorce, it could be worse. Try to make a list of the blessings you have. Hold tight to them, as they may need to pull you through some tough times.
Allow Yourself to Grieve, and Set Expectations Low
You will be sad. This is fine and to be expected. Just don't tell yourself that it will always be so painful. Tell yourself "this too shall pass," and it will. The holidays aren't forever. They're a snapshot in time, and they'll whiz by. Just ride with your emotions, and let yourself experience it all: anger, sadness, and fear, but also happiness and peace . . . the happiness and peace that comes when you are no longer at war with your former partner, but instead have made a new path and forged ahead. You will make it through, tougher and stronger for it!