Well, Thanksgiving is done and we’ve survived Black Friday.
But, we’re not through the holiday abyss yet, which means we’ll most likely be dreading the stress, craziness, and visions of perfection shoved down our throats.
For many of us, the holidays can feel dark, lonely, and stressful—especially if we are going through or recovering from divorce. And, instead of looking forward to the beautiful decorations, the smell of baking pies, and holiday songs on the radio, we instead may feel triggered by sadness.
You may be going through divorce, or recovering from divorce right now, but that doesn’t mean this season has to make you feel worse. Moving on from divorce and our old lives does not mean that we cannot enjoy the holidays. In fact, we can even make them better than before.
So, a few pointers to remember as you navigate the next few weeks.
Manage expectations, but remain optimistic.
For years, we have been inundated with people telling us how the holidays “should” be. It could be from watching impossibly staged meals on cooking shows. It might be from pictures we see in the media of the perfect holidays, or from family members who say “but we’ve always done it this way.” We have been taught to do whatever everybody else wants to do. Often, we have never learned to imagine how we want the holidays to be for ourselves.
It’s no wonder we feel lonely or stressed when we are spending the holidays alone!
These unrealistic expectations of perfect holidays and families getting along have conditioned us to feel as if we are not up to those standards. We feel that we are wrong, and that we’re not celebrating the holidays “the right way.”
You have worked too hard over the years and deserve more than to get sucked into the idea that you’re doing the holidays wrong. This year, it is time to envision what the best holiday season means for you, regardless of where you are in your life.
If you are alone, you are still worthy of celebrating the season any way you like. A change in family circumstance does not mean you are sentenced to feel bad. It just means that you are now given an opportunity to decide how you want the holidays to be, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Your selective memory may be your worst enemy.
When we are alone, we tend to think about the times when the family was together, when the marriage was strong, and when the holidays were “perfect.” We’re all guilty of remembering our past holidays when we were still married as perfect. It’s easy to fall into this trap when we are divorced.
But what we forget are all the things that weren’t great during those holidays. When we shut those “not-perfect” memories of family holidays out, we are subconsciously setting ourselves up for failure. We are holding our current holiday mood up to an impossible ideal of selective memories that may not be correct. We do this when we are feeling down, trying to imagine a happier time.
This way of thinking does not serve us because you are holding yourself to an ideal that is impossible to attain. Making yourself feel guilty or resentful or longing for the past will not serve you this holiday season. The only way to start loving the holidays again is to reclaim for yourself…now.
Embrace the season instead of dreading it.
During the holidays, especially the times when you were married or raising a family, you were probably caught up in trying to please others. You were almost certainly trying to make things so perfect that you never took time for yourself.
Stop overlooking your own needs.
Holiday time, especially if you are spending it by yourself, gives you a unique gift. This season, you get to ask yourself and do something for yourself that you may have never had the opportunity to do before. You get to choose the season for yourself.
The first steps to learning to love the holidays again begin here. Celebrating you in this chapter of your life starts by answering the following questions:
What do you really want to do?
What will give you joy this holiday season?
What steps will you take to get there?
That is all you must ask yourself. These answers do not have to be complicated. You are not required to spend a lot of money on them.
Shaking off your loneliness and reclaiming the holidays is all about taking care of yourself for a change. This is the year when you can say no to the things from holidays past that you have not enjoyed and that bring you stress, such as traveling, seeing toxic family members, and spending too much money.
This is also the year you can pick the traditions that you love and throw out the rest. This is the year you can define what a joyous season means to you, and choose to celebrate how you want to celebrate.
And learning to love the holidays again, even if you are divorced, starts with kicking those unrealistic expectations to the curb and ignoring the selective memory that plays tricks on you.
These new few weeks can be the season when you finally recognize that you deserve holiday joy and happiness and you have the power to define that on your own terms.
Will you accept that gift?
Author: Martha Bodyfelt
Image: Andrea Portilla/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Khara-Jade Warren