1. Be intentional. Know that this holiday season IS different. Your life IS different. So take some time to think about how you want this to be and how you can make that happen. Think and plan ahead.
2. Have a mantra in mind that gives you strength and reminds you of possibility. Some examples might be: Change is hard AND change offers infinite possibilities. Or, yes, the life I had (and perhaps treasured) is gone AND the world is wide and full of interesting people. Today I choose to embrace those people. Or simply: I can now choose to create new holiday traditions.
3. Do something new. Plan at least one holiday activity that is something you never did in holidays past but always wanted to. Have you always wanted to ice skate to Christmas carols? Find a place and do it! Was your ex bored by the Hallmark happy endings holiday movies and you loved them? Grant yourself a day of binge watching. While we are talking about movies, movie theaters are not only open on Christmas but are featuring many new releases in preparation for the Oscars. This might be a good choice if you had a Christmas day ritual with your ex and that space feels empty. Get thyself to the theater!
4. Say no. If you have an invitation to a gathering where you KNOW you will be uncomfortable, politely decline. For example, if your ex is there with a new partner and you are not ready for that or perhaps you know he or she will be there and you are not ready to share space. If it feels “too soon,” then it IS too soon and you do not have to do it. Give yourself permission to say no.
5. Establish boundaries. People are VERY curious about divorce. Whether well-meaning or just nosy, questions may be asked that you do not want to discuss in that moment. So have an answer prepared. For example, “I’m enjoying this time with friends (or family) and want to stay focused on that right now.” Then smile politely and offer a new topic. If the questioner persists, walk away or if you can’t do that (maybe you are seated next to them at the dining room table) simply ignore the questions.
6. Reflect and Grieve. Build in some time to reflect upon, and perhaps mourn, past holidays. That was your life and there was good there. If you need it, allow yourself some time to be with this. You are NOT required to be “all better” on any particular time schedule. It can be as simple as stepping into a restroom to collect your thoughts while at a family gathering, or sitting down at home or a café and writing it all out. Maybe have a little ritual where you look over photos from holidays past and relive the good moments and allow time to accept their loss. If you don’t like to write and movement helps, walk or sweat it out. Take a walk, alone or with a friend, outdoors if possible. Or head to the gym for an extra workout. Allow yourself to think all the thoughts and then release them physically. Another possibility is to put on your favorite playlist and dance around your living room until you have danced it out.
7. Reach out. Look around you and find other people who might be alone or experiencing change during this holiday. Perhaps find someone who is also newly divorced. Perhaps find a mom who is having her first Christmas without her children who have grown and moved away. Check with local churches and ask the pastor if he or she knows of anyone who might appreciate a visit. Or maybe someone who would like to attend services but has no transportation. Bake or buy cookies and drop them off at the closest firehouse. If you love animals, call the local shelter and see if there is anything you can do as a volunteer.
8. Feel the feelings. Know that whatever you are feeling is acceptable. The good news about feelings is that they are temporary; they pass. As you grow and change through this experience, you’ll be choosing new feelings. If those still don’t feel right? Choose again. This is a journey, a process. You deserve happiness and joy. Make imperfect choices knowing you are growing as you do. The best is yet to come.