Are you facing your first holidays after divorce?

Not sure how to survive the holidays after divorce? Or even during a divorce?

I know what you are going through. In 2016 I faced my first holiday season as a divorced person. Actually my divorce was not quite final. That would be January of 2017.

holidays after divorce

Now approaching the 2020 holiday season, I can say that it does get easier. At first it is tough - really tough. But with each year, the changes become more manageable and enjoyable.

But beyond reassurance, I also want to share with you some tricks on how I survived the holidays after divorce.

Divorce and The Holidays: Take Your Time

The best thing you can do for yourself is to allow yourself time. Time to heal. Time to get used to your new life. Time to just be.

Divorce is emotionally draining. The holidays are emotionally draining. Put them together, and you have the recipe for a meltdown. (Which if you need, take it!)

It will take a while to get through all the emotions and figure out what your life looks like after marriage.

Don’t expect yourself to instantly feel like you have to have it all figured out. Don’t push yourself into situations that will bring unnecessary stress. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Build extra time into your schedule to allow for yourself to unwind and have a good cry.

Need extra emotional healing tools to survive the holidays? Check out our article on Emotional Healing Techniques

Post Divorce Holiday Traditions

The best part of this? You have a clean slate to create from. How often in your life do you get to change traditions and try new things? (I know this can be a hard way to look at it, but changing your mindset even about these small things will help your entire divorce transition.)

Approach it as an experiment. Try some things and if they don’t work, you don’t have to do them again.

So, how do you even figure out what those new traditions might look like?

I recommend you answer the following questions. Do this in a journal so you can write about any of the emotions that come up.

Journal Prompts for Creating New Holiday Traditions After Divorce:

  • Make a list of everything that you liked while you were married. What traditions did you do that you want to keep?
  • Create a list of things you didn't like. Now for me this was the long list. That's mainly because my ex was more into the holidays than I was. It wasn't that I didn't like the holidays, he simply had more opinions about them. So, for most of them, except for Easter, we went with what his traditions were and what he wanted. (I love Easter!) 
  • Think back to when you were a kid. Were their traditions that your family had that you loved but are not doing anymore? This is the perfect time to reintroduce those back into your family.
  • Write down what your perfect holiday day looks like. What is your perfect Thanksgiving? What's your perfect Christmas? What's your perfect Hanukkah? What's your perfect Fourth of July? Grab any holiday that you are facing and write about what makes it perfect for you? Be very specific: what do you do when you wake up? What do you do at lunch? What are you're doing at dinner? What do you do the night before?
  • What have you always wanted to try but have not been able to?

Now using your answers to the questions above start creating your holiday plans.

Involve the Kids In Your Holiday Planning

Depending on the age of your kids, it can be a great idea to get their opinion on what to do with the holidays. The older they are the more of an opinion they will have.

Not to mention, they will be more likely to go along with the plans. Creating a better holiday for everyone.

Ask them what liked and did not like of things you did in the past.

If your kids are younger it is a judgement call on if you involve them. Depending on the age and their maturity level, it may be best to make the decisions on your own.

The first year, I made most of the decisions. Then with each of the next years I involved my son in the decisions. This can be surprising because sometimes he picks things I would not have expected.

divorce and the holidays new traditions

Examples of Holiday Traditions

Here are a few ideas to help you get started in re-creating your holidays after divorce.

  •  A nice dinner out the evening before. My son and I love to do this the evening before Easter.
  •  Bake or create a gingerbread house. I love to bake. So I will try and do a couple baking sessions. Sometimes my son joins in and sometime not! Either way this one is about me getting to relax and enjoy cooking during the stress. (I cook to relieve stress.)
  •  Have a fun outing. My son and I started going to Great Wolf Lodge one night in December. The place is decked out in holiday cheer and it feels like we are on vacation. Even though we are only 25 minutes from home! Sadly with the current pandemic, think we are skipping it this year.
  • Volunteer - you can do this either before the holiday or even on the day. I remember as a little kid going with my mom to a soup kitchen to help out. And visiting older people at home with no family around. It truly helps you remember the reason for the season.
  •  Travel alone - yes you read that right. This can be a holiday tradition. I love to travel and since I don't have my son for every holiday I figure why not use it as a time to go explore. Travel can be very healing and confidence boosting. Exactly what the newly divorced need!  (Check out my article on why travel is emotionally healing if your not sold on the idea!)

What to Expect in Holiday Years 2 and Beyond After Divorce

I would love to say that I had everything perfectly managed by year two, but that is just not the case.

Year two is easier, but with most divorce settlements, you will get different holidays every year. This creates a good time to re-visit the journal questions from above for the new holiday season.

I would also still allow extra time to manage your emotions as they come up.

As far as traditions go, keep experimenting. If the prior year was not exactly what you were hoping it would be – try something new!

This goes for the holiday’s you don’t have the kids also. I have tried being with friends on my off years and have tried traveling alone. You never know what you are going to like if you don’t experiment.

Year 3 was when I finally got to where my feelings were easier to manage. Honestly even better than before the divorce. My holidays were settling into a rhythm, and I only tried a couple new things. But that is how most things are after a divorce. Suck the first year, gets better the second and then it is smooth sailing.

Have a Support Network to Help You Through the Holidays

Because of everything going on. Your divorce, new living circumstances, a changing life – all on top of the Holidays. Make sure you have a support team in place.

Have a friend you can call if you need to talk. Have a counselor to help you through the depressing days.

You don’t have to do this alone. Build a support network around you.

No matter where this process leads you, remember you are the one making decisions. You don’t have to do what your friends and family tell you to do. If it is too much to go to a party – don’t go! Honor what you want and need.


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