Following a divorce, single moms use all kinds of strategies to manage the difficult emotions that arise from the transition, from keeping busy to building a support network of other single moms. But as effective as these tactics often are, many still find themselves down in the dumps during the holiday season. Watching your kids race off to spend the day with their other parent seems to bring stress, anxiety, and heartache to divorced and separated moms like nothing else. As Alisha F. puts it, "I'm having a hard time letting go on holidays. . . . I wish I had someone in my life to vent to [who] knew how it feels to not have your kids with you on a holiday."
The good news is that there are in fact plenty of readers who know exactly how it feels. To help, I've gathered their best advice on staving off the holiday blues.
1. Reinvent Traditions
Who says Christmas has to be on Christmas? Some readers suggest celebrating a second holiday with your kids at your home, either before or after the actual date. Candice C. explains her upbeat attitude toward this kind of tradition building:
"As my daughter grows we will build traditions together. The bonus of being alone is you don't have to suffer through the rituals the other parent wants that you don't like!"
2. Savor the Solitude
If you find yourself home alone, savor the solitude and time for yourself! As Debra T. explains, neither you nor your kids will regret the time you spend taking care of yourself:
"The holidays are a tough time any way for everyone, but especially in a circumstance such as this. The best Christmas gift you can give yourself is to learn to love yourself, understand yourself, take care of yourself and be compassionate to yourself, and that is a gift that will last forever and be passed down to your children. They will see an incredibly strong woman and they will learn to make true decisions for themselves as they grow. Charity begins at home, in your heart towards yourself."
Alicia C. takes advantage of the alone time to savor quiet pleasures: "I get a book I have been meaning to read or a movie I have been wanting to watch but can't because it's not for the kids."
3. Make Plans With Friends
If you feel up to it, accept some of the myriad of invitations you've probably received from friends and other family members who don't want to leave you stranded and solo during the holidays. If you have friends who are just yours (as opposed to friends you shared with your ex), "Invite them to be with you at the holidays or be with them," advises Kekua M.
Alicia C. gives the thumbs-up to this approach, adding that making plans in advance with family and friends is "the best way that I have learned how to cope."
Candice C. recommends keeping holiday loneliness at bay by attending special holiday ceremonies and events at a church or other place of worship.
4. Consider Joint Celebrations
Some single moms have figured out how not to be left home alone. Christina M. gets along so well with her ex that they hold joint holiday celebrations:
"My son loves it, and neither of us has to give up a holiday. My ex and I get along great, and so do our spouses. And our son is the biggest winner of all. Talk to your ex about joint celebrations. You might be surprised at just how much you like it," she advises.
5. Hang in There!
Finally, several moms comment that you don't have to pretend you're holly and jolly when you just want to curl up in a ball and have a good cry. "There really isn't any advice that will make it any easier," says Alicia C. "I have been divorced for eight years now and I still have a hard time when my kids go to their dad's on holidays."
It's tough, but the holidays will pass and life will be back to "normal," says Amanda P. "Just hang in there and do the best you can."