Top Ten Ways to Survive the Holidays During and After Divorce
Coping with separation, divorce and loss is MAGNIFIED as the holiday season approaches. Many people feel overwhelmed by the stress and strain of trying to maintain the status quo, when in fact, their entire world is collapsing around them. The Holiday season serves as a constant reminder of festive, happier times and is contrasted by the stark reality of loneliness and despair. While others are eagerly anticipating the holidays, a newly separated or divorced person often approaches this time of year with panic, sadness, and dread. Although there are no magical solutions to cure the holiday blues, there are things you can do to make it easier to cope.
1. PLAN AHEAD - Plan to do something that is fun, relaxing, and as stress free as possible with people you really care about. If the holidays are just too painful and the reminders are everywhere, consider a vacation that allows you to "escape " the painful triggers.
2. CREATE NEW RITUALS AND FAMILY TRADITIONS - While you may want to hold on to some of the past traditions, it's a good idea to create some new rituals with friends and family. (Consider an alternative day, time, place, etc.)
3. REASSURE KIDS THAT HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS WILL CONTINUE, BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY - Children can help create some of the new holiday rituals and traditions. Take time to brainstorm with your children about new ideas for celebrating.
4. ASK IF YOU ARE ACTING "IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD" - Decide ahead of time how holidays will be divided. Reassure kids that you will be OK while they are with the other parent. Remember, tired kids will be stressed out and cranky, so plan according to their ages and ability to adjust. Keep the arrangements as simple as possible.
5. MAKE A SCHEDULE - Make a list of everything you need to do for the holidays and a target date to accomplish your goals. This will help you to feel more in control and less stressed. Delegate tasks appropriately.
6. ASK FOR HELP FROM SUPPORTIVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS - Rely on a healthy support system if you are feeling isolated, lonely or depressed. Tell your support people what you need from them (companionship, understanding, compassion, listening, etc.)
7. BE REALISTIC - "Picture perfect" holidays are usually just an illusion. Have realistic expectations about the holiday season, especially the first year.
8. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF - Get the proper amount of sleep and exercise and eat healthy in order to maximize your ability to cope. It's easy to overeat or party too much to medicate your pain, but in the long run, it creates more problems.
9. SCHEDULE TIME FOR REST, RELAXATION AND NURTURING - Give yourself a break. You deserve it!
10. ONE DAY AT A TIME; ONE HOLIDAY AT A TIME - It will get easier. It will get better. It will hurt less. Right now, just concentrate on one thing at a time!
If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or stuck, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive environment in which you can gain insight, learn problem solving skills and find solutions to dealing with the anger and pain of separation and divorce.
SHELLEE DARNELL IS A IS A LICENSED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST IN PRIVATE PRACTICE IN IRVINE, CALIFORNIA. SHE HAS A MASTERS DEGREE IN EDUCATION FROM JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY AND A MASTERS DEGREE IN COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY FROM PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY.