Wednesday, December 2, 2009

“Managing the Holiday Blues After Divorce"

Expect the first holidays after a loss of any kind to be difficult. In fact,any “first times” can be expected to be hard, for example your first anniversary or birthday without your spouse. That’s just the way it is. Even if the divorce were your idea and you’re glad the marriage has ended, you probably will feel like a fish out of water during the first holiday season you spend apart.

Since childhood, we wait expectantly for holidays as a time of surprises and togetherness. Most families overtly or covertly agree to ignore Aunt Bernice if she were too much “in her cups” at the dinner table. And everyone colludes to not encourage Uncle Fred if he holds forth too long and heartily about the next year’s elections, high taxes,or corporate greed. Family is family, and any misbehavior generally is ignored in favor of family unity,harmony and preserving the family's Currier and Ives and Norman Rockwell holiday pictures.

Extended family members also can have difficulty with a former family's absence. If a family member sides with your former spouse, as my mother did for a time when I divorced my first husband, the pain is intensified. And even if no one does, you can expect to feel like a fish out of water when it seems like everyone else is coupled and celebrating together.

Ten Tips For Being Single Again For the Holidays

1. Don't push yourself to go out and fake being sociable. Give yourself permission to do what feels good to you. If that means going out but coming home when you have had enough of pretending you are not hurting and are having a good time, then do that. If it means staying home and taking a bubble bath by candlelight, do that.

2. Don’t get prematurely involved with someone just because you don’t want to face the holidays alone. At the least, you will be bored and waste your time. At the worst, you’ll get hurt again because this is a vulnerable time when you are susceptible to choosing someone out of desperation.

3. Don’t sleep with anybody just because you are lonely. That will only confuse you at a time when conflicting feelings are swirling around you anyway.

4. Don’t expect people who have never been divorced to understand why this is such a difficult time. This is especially true if you initiated the divorce. They just won’t get it unless they’ve faced that prospect themselves.

5. Don’t go on a wild, break-the-bank spending spree to make yourself feel better. You’ll only feel miserable when the bills come.

6. Don’t change the subject away from your grief. The sooner you reckon with and resolve your feelings about the divorce, the sooner you genuinely will be able to more forward.

7. Do use New Years as a time to take stock of what is good in your life despite the divorce. Set your own goals to aim toward in the coming year to help you make sure it’s a better one.

8. Do ask for support when you need it. Sometimes that means crying on a friend’s shoulder. Sometimes it means taking a long, cleansing walk with a trusted advisor. Sometimes it means having a cup of tea and talking about anything but the divorce or your former spouse. You’ll know what you need. Honor it.

9. Do make your own plans for the holidays themselves. Plan fun activities with people with whom you feel safe. Go visit special relatives or friends with whom you can be yourself.

10. Do realize that this, too, shall pass. Your life will normalize. You will feel like yourself again.

In the meantime, be patient with yourself. Love yourself a little.

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