The holidays can look much different during a divorce than they did only a year earlier, and the changes can take some getting used to. The challenge is that you have to start somewhere, and in these “newer” moments, it is easy to feel lost, conflicted, and emotional.
Though there are no quick fixes to make the range of emotions you may experience disappear or never appear at all, there are steps you can take to comfort yourself during this time. Here they are.
Going into the holidays with an understanding that your feelings can change from moment to moment can help you expect the unexpected. By doing so, you are effectively giving yourself permission to laugh, cry, and feel ambivalent. In other words, there is no “right” way to feel during a divorce.
For example, if you are typically the one who plans and prepares Thanksgiving dinner, and this year your children will be with your ex, leaving you to figure out your own Thanksgiving plans, don’t expect you will necessarily feel a certain way. Or that you will feel a certain way the entire time.
The reality is, in some respects, you may feel relieved, even happy, that you are off the hook for once and can be someone else’s guest. And in another, you may feel you will be missing out on memories with your children. Likewise, you may miss your ex and how they carved the turkey, or you may remember how you couldn’t stand the way they never helped to clean up.
The key is to expect a range of emotions and, more importantly, not beat yourself up for experiencing them. The mood swings you may feel are natural.
You can still use your favorite holiday dishes and decorations and embrace family traditions. However, if you are using them as a means to hold onto your past, to create a shrine to what “once was,” check yourself. Consider that instead of setting the table, you are setting the stage for disappointment.
In most situations, your life will not return to the way it used to be before you separated, and that’s just a fact. It can’t, even if you were to reconcile with your ex. As humans, we are perpetually changing. Time moves forward, and there is nothing any of us can do to stop it, so quit trying to.
Rather, take a look forward, even if you cannot envision what lies ahead just yet. Much of how you perceive what’s in front of you will depend on your mindset. If you are negative about the changes in your life, whether because you are bitter, afraid, or some combination thereof, try to look at the uncertainty as an opportunity to create the future that you would want.
No, your future won’t include your ex, at least in the way your past did. But relationships change. And “bad” or damaged ones can improve, especially with time, distance, and a renewed commitment to get along, which is especially important if you have plans to co-parent positively. Staying rooted in the past can only compromise these goals.
Once you know your upcoming schedule for the holidays, begin making your plans, even if your plan is to set aside time to be on your own. Having activities (or alone time) on the calendar for the holidays can help keep you anchored in the present.
If you are used to a specific routine during the holidays, such as going to a particular relative’s home, which won’t be possible anymore due to your divorce, or you will be without your kids for the first time, it can be especially helpful to make arrangements and change up your routine.
Who knows, you may just come to like this new routine as much, if not better, than the one you used to follow. Speaking of which …
Mindset is critical during a divorce, and although you may experience a range of emotions, as discussed earlier, if your overall mindset is positive, these changes will be easier to weather. Your new holiday routine may not be something you are looking forward to (yet), asked for, or wanted, but if you keep an open mind about what is about to come, you can, at a minimum, make the best of the situation you are in because, in so many ways, perception is reality.
Keeping an open mind will also come in handy when dealing with an ex who you are co-parenting with. Much of the success underlying a healthy co-parenting relationship comes from maintaining open channels of communication and a willingness to work out issues as they arise with your ex, and without putting your children in the middle, of course.
Going through a divorce during the holidays is probably an altogether new experience for you, which means that as much as you attempt to plan ahead, you may still find yourself having to make adjustments at some points along the way. This is not only OK but also to be expected.
You are human, and the time during a divorce can be difficult at times, especially if the divorce is a high-conflict one or you don’t have an amicable relationship with your ex yet. Also, if you are beginning to navigate the world of co-parenting with your ex, your children, too, will be going through an adjustment period.
This adjustment period can cause added stress for you as a parent, and since parenthood is not an exact science, there will be times when you won’t get it right, when you won’t do exactly what makes your children happy, or you won’t have the power to do what makes your children happy. Kindly remind yourself that your best can be good enough.
Going through a divorce is about so much more than the divorce process. This is because the divorce process represents a finite period of time, and it, too, shall pass. What starts the divorce process and remains is you, your family, and the life you will eventually envision leading.
At Elise Buie Family Law, our empathetic team understands the changes and evolution you and your family are experiencing due to your divorce, from the very moment you begin thinking about it to long after it is over and you embark on your post-divorce life. We care about both your short and long-term successes, including your hopes and dreams, and want to see you leave the divorce process feeling strong and capable.
If you would like to discuss the details of your divorce or another family law matter with us, we are here to listen. Give our Seattle team a call today.