My first few holidays on my own, I cried. A lot. Everything was different. Nothing seemed right. I knew in my heart my life was not the way it was supposed to be. I was sad and tradition-less and sometimes kid-less and I wanted to be alone but I was so terribly lonely. And I ate a lot of soup and a lot of Chinese and watched a lot of movies on Amazon Prime. That’s all I really remember.
So as we head into another holiday season, here are some thoughts from someone a tad farther down the road than you precious newly-separated/newly-divorced girls.
All expectations must be thrown out the window. Pretend you’ve never gone through Thanksgiving or Christmas before. You’re starting over, starting fresh. Expect zippo. Other than you will probably cry.
Get some paper and some time alone and start dreaming and brainstorming. If you could experience Thanksgiving and Christmas any way you wanted it, what would they look like for you? Then, are any of those things on your wishlist possible? Can you create some new traditions?
Look at your calendar early to see when you’ve got your kids. Don’t be all bitter if you don’t have them as much as you like this year, even though it sucks. Next year, more than likely, things will land in your favor. Sit down with your kids and ask them what new traditions they’d like to make.
Don’t do too much. Seriously. You are still grieving. Do less than you would normally do. Jot down what you typically do every year, then take a couple tasks off the list. This might be a good time to drop the family Christmas letter from your to-do’s. Trust me…I wrote one my first separated year and it was so depressingly funny, I just sent it to a few close friends who probably wanted to have me sedated. Nothing you say this year will overshadow the obvious.
Show grace. To yourself. To your kids. To your ex- or soon-to-be-ex-husband. You’re all new at figuring this stuff out. It will take time. The first holiday stretch will more than likely be just plain bumpy and awkward no matter how well-adjusted you feel.
Take care of yourself. Get more rest. Get a massage. Make sure you’re spending time with friends or your counselor and not a box of wine.
On days you don’t have the kids, make a plan. Even if the plan is, “I will watch When Harry Met Sally and order a pizza”. Just so you know that you’ve got something to do that day.
And know this: this is your new reality. It will feel strange at first. But it will begin to feel a bit more normal as time goes by. You will not always dread the holidays. You will create new traditions. Every holiday will not make you sob in your car. Things will get better. You will feel better. I promise.