Spending the holidays without your children can be heart-wrenching. The holidays are all about family, and when you are faced with the undeniable fact that you are no longer the family you once were, the pain can cut deep.
You are overwhelmed with memories of how it used to be … the anticipation, the laughter, the joy, the presents, that sense of togetherness. Since the divorce, you are left with precious little other than memories. And these can be especially difficult when the kids spend the season with your ex. It’s your year to be alone, and the truth is, you’ve never felt this lonely. In addition, there is always some competitiveness lurking silently in the background as to which parent can provide the children with the best Christmas. Your anxiety is thriving on overload.
Some co-parents who are in their “off” year are desperate enough to consider joining their ex and children for the day. It used to be their special time, and the idea of suffering through a day with your ex may seem more tolerable than spending it alone. All the old traditions are floating through your head. There is safety and security in spending the holidays together, even if you and your ex are barely on civil speaking terms.
There may be, however, a better way of handling the holidays on your own. This could be your opportunity to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix and create a whole new you along with new seasonal traditions. The past is gone. The divorce is over. But your future is totally under your control.
It’s One Day
Begin by putting things in perspective. Yes, it’s the holidays, and it’s important. But in the end, it is also just one day. As long as your children are fine, don’t let that one day be defined by societal expectations. Many families complain about family expectations for the day and how when the in-laws arrive, the judging begins. Perhaps the old holidays weren’t as perfect as your memories indicate.
You are free of all that. There is no longer any need to please anyone but yourself. No more worrying whether your mother-in-law will notice the burned turkey. In addition, feel some gratitude for the fact that your ex is a good enough parent to provide a nice Christmas for his children. Imagine the pain all around if he weren’t and if the children were miserable due to parental indifference.
New Life, New Options
Think ahead, and you will find a number of things to do during the holidays. You can spend the day volunteering at a shelter and truly brighten someone’s day. You can go see a movie, or simply enjoy some alone-time if you feel up to it.
Do something life-affirming and begin a new tradition that is all your own. If you change your mindset and refuse to cling to memories, you can turn your off-year holiday into something special. Bake cookies for you and the kids and plan a party when they return.
When The Holidays Fall In the Midst of the Divorce
Families usually make holiday plans long in advance, especially if it involves travel. If separation and divorce have raised their ugly head after you’ve made plans, you will wonder what to do. Should you go through the holidays as a family one final time?
The decision is not an easy one. If you and your about-to-be ex are continuously arguing, it won’t be a good time for the children, even if you are together. You may decide then and there to let your spouse have them.
You will be fueled entirely by painful emotions, but there is no need to go through this on your own. Talk to friends, family, or a therapist. Your children will face the breakup of the family soon enough; there is no reason to ruin the holidays for them.
It’s a bad idea to spend that first post-split holiday on your own, with only a gallon of ice cream and a sad movie for company. Reach out to friends who can include you for dinner. While you may enjoy some alone time in the future, this initial holiday is no time for isolation.
Spend days leading up to the solitary holiday by being your best friend. Spoil yourself with a manicure and a splurgy outfit. Exercise and eat well. Remind yourself that your life is changing, and good things are awaiting you for the new year. If you do spend time by yourself, cheer yourself with a list of all the things you want to accomplish now that you are single again.
Spending the holidays without your children will be a challenge. Focus on your new life, on all the opportunities that are now ahead, and how you can ensure the best future for you and your children.
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