Divorce During the Holidays: How to Survive

For most people, the holidays are the most stressful time of year. For those going through a divorce during the holidays, the stress of this season can feel incomparable. We know from experience! 

As sisters who got divorced six months apart, we remember how painful it was to experience our first post-breakup holiday season. It brought up many difficult challenges: 

  • Loss of longtime family traditions with ex-partner and in-laws
  • ​Painful memories resurfacing and amplified feelings of loneliness
  • Jealousy, FOMO, and pressure to hide your pain behind holiday cheer 

The good news is, you don’t have to carry all this holiday stress alone! No matter where you are in the divorce process, here’s your foolproof guide for navigating the holidays with intention and ease. 

Secret 1: Just Say No

Secret 1 is healthy boundaries with people and activities that drain your energy. In the Northern Hemisphere, the natural world is heading into winter. Trees are shedding their leaves, plants are going dormant, and animals are preparing for hibernation. 

However, the U.S. consumerist culture has the opposite energy: one of frantic shopping, decorating, and holiday gatherings. Our society puts a lot of pressure on us to be productive, energetic, and cheerful this time of year. When you’re in the throes of divorce, these social expectations can feel like the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

The truth is, you have 100% permission to say no to the holiday obligations that drain your precious energy. It’s okay to skip the annual Secret Santa gift exchange or work holiday party. It’s okay to take a break from scrolling through “picture-perfect” family holidays on social media. It’s okay to ask someone else to cook the Thanksgiving turkey this year. 

More than ever now is your time to put yourself first. You deserve it! 

Secret 2: Reimagine Your Holidays

Secret 2 is creating new holiday traditions on your own terms. There is a beautiful gift in doing the holidays on your own this year: you get to do them however you want! When we were married, we had to split the holidays between our nuclear family and in-laws. After divorce, it was a gift to spend all our time with the people we love most. 

This gave us the inspiration to start new traditions, like singing karaoke with our parents and siblings after Christmas dinner. One of our friends, Deann, stopped cooking turkey on Thanksgiving (which she and her daughters never liked, anyway) and started cooking their favorite meal: nachos. They turned a stuffy, boring holiday into a fun party and bonding experience between mother and daughters. 

Write down all the old holiday traditions you want to get rid of. Tear them up. Now, write down your ideal holiday season. What fun, creative traditions do you want to create? If you have kids, ask them to weigh in. Now that you’re free of the past relationship, you get to reimagine the holidays on your own terms. 

Secret 3: Exquisite Self-Care

Secret 3 is prioritizing extra self-care and sacred space for your healing. As the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder, this is the perfect time to cozy up and give yourself delicious self-care. Fall and winter are the seasons for going inward, reflecting, and resting. If you are going through a breakup, it’s more important than ever to prioritize all the activities that nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Here are some examples: 

MIND: Read a good book, start a mindfulness practice, and learn something new 

BODY: Take a hot Epsom salt bath, get a massage, cook a nourishing meal

SPIRIT: Plan a girl’s night with your besties, make a date with your journal, spend time in nature 

Make This The Best Holiday Yet 

It’s completely normal to feel waves of grief, loss, and nostalgia during the holiday season. Give yourself extra self-compassion and grace this year. Surround yourself with the people who make you feel good. Say no to anything that makes you feel worse. Create new traditions that fill you with joy and inspiration. Carve out extra time to nourish yourself on a deep level. 

You don’t have to do the holidays alone – we’re here for you! Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center for a free and confidential consultation about your divorce.

Wishing you peace and ease this holiday season.

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