Thanksgiving is the gateway to the winter holiday season, which can feel challenging for those who are dealing with divorce. If you're going through a divorce or other loss this holiday season, try these four tips to help you heal:
1. Accept your feelings.
As with any loss, the first year is the hardest. Incorporating the changes involved in holiday celebrations after divorce becomes easier and more natural as years go by. It is not helpful to pretend that "all is well", if you don't really feel that way.
Acknowledging your pain is a necessary step towards moving past it. At the same time, managing your feelings and expressions, especially in front of the children, is important. Some expression of sadness or frustration is acceptable for children to see, as it gives them permission to feel and express their feelings as well. Just remember not to be blaming of the other parent in front of the children and not to burden them with the responsibility of being your caregiver.
2. Reach out for support.
Looking to a supportive friend and family as resources is critical at this time. Sometimes they don't know what to do to be helpful, and most will feel grateful if you reach out and ask for what you need. Meeting for breakfast, dropping by for a chat, having them tolerate your complaints or despair, perhaps even occasionally helping out with the kids are all concrete ways of demonstrating caring that reassure you that you are not alone.
3. Take care of yourself.
Making sure to find ways of soothing yourself when you are feeling down is essential. Bubble baths, listening to music, a walk in the woods, regular exercise, aromatherapy, a manicure or a massage, even lit candles in the living room, a cup of hot tea and reading a magazine can be relaxing and comforting. Incorporate a brief daily (or as close to it as possible) meditation practice to get your brain calmed down and reduce your stress level. Find what works for you and commit to incorporating it into your life on a regular basis.
4. Create new Thanksgiving traditions.
One of the hardest things about surviving the holidays post-divorce is facing the changes in your celebration. If you have always hosted a large extended family dinner at your house, you might not feel up to it this year. If you always traveled to you ex's parents' home and the family looked forward to the excursion (over the river and through the woods...), think of something different that you would enjoy.
What did you least like about your usual holiday tradition? What was the most irritating thing you had to put up with each year? After all, large family gatherings always have a downside. This year, get together with friends or family who support you and care for you, and do not feel obligated to be with your aunt who always bugs you or is critical.
Maybe do something totally different and drive to an out of town location with the children and make it a little getaway and eat at the resort! Or instead of having a smaller gathering around an empty looking dining room table, have a picnic in your family room and watch a great holiday movie. Or buy a great new board game and have a games night after dinner! Or create a new tradition of going out to see the latest new release movie on Thanksgiving.
Think of the change in your life as an opportunity to make this holiday your own in a new way that will feel good to you and always remember to include some expression of what you are grateful for this year. Create a ritual in which you tell each child something about him/her for which you are thankful and ask the children to do the same. There is always something to appreciate, no matter how difficult our challenges.
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