October: The Break-Up Season

October: The Break-Up Season
Family, Heartbreak

A Holiday Survival Guide for the Newly Alone

Halloween is the cut off for breaking up - this is what I usually hear from individuals thinking of separating, divorcing or breaking up at this time of year.  November feels too late; it is too close to the Holidays. And no one wants to be the jerk who leaves their spouse during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, etc.  But in October: Holiday plans can still be changed, gifts have not been purchased, plane tickets have not been bought and there is the perception that there will be enough time for some healing to take place so that the Holidays won’t be ruined.

I have learned that in this lead up time to Thanksgiving my counseling practice will be filled with couples navigating the emotional and practical aspects of breaking up and separating the stuff accumulated over their time together.  I also know that I will be meeting with many individuals who are gathering the courage to ask for a separation as well as others who have had their world turned upside-down by a spouse telling them their relationship is over.

My clients and I strategize about how to navigate this difficult time in their lives during this overwhelmingly emotional time of year.  We talk about how they will tolerate all of the complicated feelings they get hit with: loss, grief, anger, betrayal, guilt, relief, terror, or rage.  We discuss how they will move into the healing portion of a break up and talk through how to keep themselves together, safe and balanced during the holiday parties, events, trips and gift exchanges. 

So if you are newly single right now please take a look at my Holiday Survival List. It is for both those who left and those who got left behind.  Hopefully it will help you navigate this crazy time.

Plan For Crazy
The only normal, rational response to a break up to feel kinda crazy: numb, tearful, angry, anxious, and unable to connect.  And add in seeing your family for a “fun and meaningful” holiday and you will most likely feel overwhelmed.  You need to know that you are not going to be yourself right now and you need to lower your expectations of yourself: allow others to do the cooking, purchase the pies instead of baking all weekend and maybe even say no to the parties.  Another aspect of this “crazy” time is that it will be difficult to feel the Holiday Spirit. So you need to lower you expectations about the Holiday and how connected, joyful or at peace you will be able to feel.

Plan Ahead
It is never too early to begin planning.  It is important to think through your needs for the upcoming Holiday Season: what you will need to get through the parties, the family gatherings, the inevitable questions, as well as the quiet nights at home alone. What do you need when you are feeling “crazy.” Some need a quiet night at home and others need loud get-togethers with friends. Once you have an idea of what you need you can begin to arrange plans.

Allow For Plans To Change
Your moods and needs will change quickly right now.  You might think you are fine to go to the 7-course formal dinner only to find that once at the restaurant, you feel claustrophobic, can’t stop crying, and need to leave.  Then when you leave, you get hit with the guilt at abandoning your family and disappointing them.  A better option is to let everyone involved know ahead of time that you may need to change plans because of what is going on.  Then you don’t have to sort though the guilt as well as the overwhelming grief you are feeling.  Sometimes just having the permission to leave if you need to can help you feel less trapped.

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This article was originally published at Ashley Seeger DC Couples Counseling . Reprinted with permission from the author.