First holiday season as a divorcee

December time and the festive season is a highlight for so many people…..but not for the recently divorced.

I recall my first December as a divorcee. I was priviledged enough to be given a holiday by my father. I was also lucky to have my children with me. Despite this….my first December as a single divorced woman was very difficult.

It seemed as if I was surrounded by complete, happy families. Everywhere I looked, there were complete families – husband, wife and 2,5 kids…..and to me they looked so happy, so complete. It felt as if their togetherness amplified my lack. What is interesting is that the previous year, I arrived on holiday with my children, without my husband, a week earlier. There were the same “complete” families around me, but I felt no lack or void.

Interestingly, people who knew about my situation were exceptionally sympathetic, but this did not impact on the way that I felt. I was so sore, raw and lonely inside…..and the presence of happy, complete families seemed to intensify my pain.

Now…..many years down the line, with divorce as a distant memory, I would like to share some tips that may help you through this time:

  1. Expect the first time to be difficult – all the firsts after divorce are difficult, including your first holiday time. Know that the next time will be easier. Congratulate yourself for getting through this time and look forward to the next time being less difficult and painful.
  2. Surround yourself with people that uplift you – it’s okay to admit that you cannot do everything alone. Allow people that love you and make you feel good about yourself, into your space. It is often tempting to convene with people who have been through a similar experience, but this is not always positive and constructive. Spend time with people that make you laugh and make you feel good about yourself.
  3. Keep busy doing the things that you love – if possible, try plan your holiday time and make space for doing things that you enjoy doing. December time is not always easy if you are a single mom and need a babysitter – perhaps arrange to “trade” with a friend, where you babysit each other’s kids so you can each have some time out. You may be at the point where the trauma and grief are so intense that you don’t even remember what it is that you love doing – that’s okay. Take a brisk walk in the fresh air, listen to some soothing music or take a bath and relax.
  4. Remind yourself constantly that you are good enough and that your sense of wholeness is not dependent on another. Nobody can tell the future – this holiday time may be the last one that you are solo, or it may be the first of many to come. No matter the situation, you need to tell yourself ALL THE TIME that you are good enough as you are. So many married people fall into the trap of believing that it is their partner that completes them. You need to know that you are okay as you are, solo, on your own. A partner should never complete you – they can add to your life, share in your joy, be the icing on the cake.
  5. Forgive yourself for wanting to stab the smug marrieds. It’s okay to feel envious of “complete” couples and families. Acknowledge the feelings but don’t allow them to consume you.
  6. When times are tough, repeat “this too shall pass”. Know that nothing is forever – not good and not bad. I wore a ring with these words inscribed – a constant reminder that things would not be tough forever. Know this, believe this!

A time that is meant to be festive can become quite overwhelming and despair-provoking. Be prepared for the holiday season with these tips and hopefully the first Xmas as a divorcee wont be as daunting as anticipated.

Breathe and take one step at a time!

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