Different doesn't have to mean bad.
Anticipating your first holidays after your divorce (or separation) is horrible. Everywhere you look, there are reminders that this is a time for families to celebrate together.
But that's not true for you. You won't ever have your family together again — at least not like it was. You won't always be able to spend the holidays with your kids because now you'll have to take turns with your ex.
And yet the holidays can still be magical for you. It will just take a bit of effort and a shift in perspective.
Look, I didn't believe my first holidays post-divorce would be anything but horrible either. I was wrong though. I wound up having a great holiday season and here are the three things I did to take the horrible out of my holidays:
1. Say "yes" as often as you can
I felt completely forgettable, so I thought I'd be alone and forgotten for the holidays. On the other hand, I didn't want to have a bunch of pity invitations either. But my friends and family reached out to me and showered me with loving invitations to join them for their celebrations.
You might be surprised by how much your friends and family will reach out to you during the holidays. You'll probably even have fun if you're brave enough to say "Yes" to their invitations.
2. Look for the good
This one was hard for me at first. I was so miserable that I wasn't sure there was much of anything I could be thankful for. But there was a TON: being alive and having love and friendship surround me were at the top of my list. Now, when I look back I'm actually thankful for my divorce. Without it I don't know if I could have developed the courage or the strong sense of self I have today.
Being thankful might be especially tough for you soon after your divorce, especially if you're not with your children. But be thankful for what you have even though it's different. Your gratitude will help you to make it through the holidays instead of being stuck in the misery of missing what was.
3. Be gentle with yourself
The first year or so after my divorce, I was extremely impatient with myself. I kept thinking I should have healed more quickly from my divorce and didn't want to give myself any more time to grieve.
I discovered I couldn't rush through my healing by accepting every single invitation that came my way — no matter how much I thought I could. I still needed time to process all of the changes instead of keeping myself too busy to feel what I needed to feel.
So, if the holiday season starts to move a little fast for you (or if you find yourself pushing yourself into a frazzle), it's OK to slow things down and nurture yourself. Just keep in mind that nurturing is way different from throwing yourself a pity party. And when you're done taking care of yourself, join in the festivities again.
Following these tips won't make your holidays perfect. They also won't fill the hole in your heart that not being with your kids (or even your ex) creates. But they will help you to have a happier holiday season than you might at first believe is wasn't possible.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and divorce survivor herself. She works with clients helping them get out of their post-divorce funks so they can go on to find love again, just as she did. For a free session with Karen, email her at Karen@functionaldivorce.com .
This article was originally published at Dr. Karen Finn's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.