For divorced couples or those considering filing, the holidays may be a particularly painful time of year. The contrast between their own situation and what they see in social media, movies, and commercials may be stark.
With the holiday season comes the expectation of joyful gratitude, harmonious family get-togethers, quality time with loved ones, and opportunities to make lasting memories. For some families, however, holidays create toxic situations by reuniting parents, children, and siblings who rarely get along. Some will try to avoid sensitive subjects for the sake of peace. Others may be tired of peacemaking and use the get-together as an opportunity for a long-awaited confrontation. Child visitation arrangements may require adjustments during the holidays, but ongoing communication with your ex-spouse may be difficult.
7 Ways to Survive the Holidays Before, During, or After a Divorce
No matter the circumstances, holidays can be highly stressful for families who have experienced—or will soon experience— divorce or legal separation. Whether you are considering a divorce, currently in the filing process, or struggling with the aftermath, coping strategies often overlap.
Here are 7 strategies for surviving the holidays in light of divorce:
- Self-care. December’s traditions may require spending heaps of money on your loved ones, but taking care of yourself first is crucial for surviving the season. An unfulfilling marriage may have meant years of compromise and unmet needs, and even the smallest investments in your mental health (e.g. friend time, hobbies, creating a self-care routine) can go a long way toward restoring your sense of individuality and inner strength.
- Let go of guilt. No matter what stage of divorce you are experiencing, you may feel guilty for considering or choosing this path—especially if you and your partner/ex-partner have children. While mourning a broken relationship will be necessary for your healing, ending an unfulfilling, toxic, or abusive marriage protects the mental health of everyone involved.
- Create new holiday traditions. A divorce will likely mean saying goodbye to old traditions. Creating new ones with friends and other family members can help you cope with overwhelming changes. Consider volunteering at a local food shelter or animal shelter, establishing your own annual Friends’ Day, or trying something completely new. Even if you are still with your partner, having your own traditions and memories to lean on during the future separation can help you survive the process.
- Enjoy what you can. Before, during, or after a divorce, worrying about the future or dwelling on the past may take up most or all of your mental space. Make an effort to live in the moment and have fun, and never underestimate the healing power of sharing laughs with those you love.
- Establish boundaries. No time is the wrong time for setting boundaries. This may mean forbidding certain topics of conversation, limiting the time you spend with your partner or ex-partner or standing up for yourself in ways you never have before.
- Choose your battles. While boundaries are crucial, recognizing the difference between standing up for yourself and unnecessarily starting fights will help you conserve the energy you need to survive the holidays. Honest communication is important, but excessive negativity will not benefit anyone. If you have children, help them enjoy the holidays by suspending the arguments—if only for a few weeks.
- Reconnect with loved ones. One of the consequences of toxic, codependent, or abusive relationships is losing connections with your friends and family. To survive the holiday season during a divorce, however, their love will become essential. It is never too late to repair a relationship or reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in months or even years. Never be ashamed of asking for help.
Divorce is painful—nothing will change that. But these tips can restore your sense of hope for the future and help you take care of both yourself and your family.
Surviving the Legal Challenges of a Divorce
At Gill Law Group, PC, our legal team understands how difficult divorce or separation can be, especially during the holidays. When you work with our firm, you will benefit from the level of knowledge that comes only from years of experience, as well as the compassion and sensitivity of a team that genuinely cares about your wellbeing. Whether you are filing for divorce, fighting for custody, or struggling to divide marital assets, we will support you every step of the way.