Published in West Coast Woman’s Magazine, November 2011
The holidays can be especially difficult for the newly divorced! How do you handle the loneliness, the change in family traditions, and family get togethers?
1. Expand Your Support System
As we move through the divorce process, often because of feelings of failure, loss of being a couple, and general feelings of inadequacy, without a healthy support system we find our connections being reduced. Our support system is not the same as our social circle. We may be going out and being involved outside of our employment with others, but if the people we are affiliated with are not also an emotional support in our life, we may need to find friends and acquaintances that we can have closer friendships with. Perhaps we need to find a support system that focuses on the recently divorced so that we are surrounded with people who really understand what we are going through.
This includes being a friend to someone else that needs a new friend. Often we are so focused on how victim-like we feel, that we lose touch with others that are in need of a friend. In order to acquire a friend, we have to be a friend. Look around, smile, say hello, invite someone you know just a little to have a cup of coffee or lunch and get to know them better. It only takes the sharing of ourselves to realize that as human beings we all have many similar feelings. Don’t wait for someone to invite you out, instead invite someone to do something with you. Make a list of events and activities that you enjoy or have always wanted to try if you are having a hard time getting started.
2. Practice Established Traditions
If you have traditionally practiced certain traditions, make sure you keep some of those same traditions throughout the holidays, especially if you have children, but even if you don’t or if your children are not with you. Our traditions provide us a sense of belonging and permanence in our changing personal world. Traditions are important for our children. It provides them with an important sense of belonging.
3. Establish New Traditions
When we go through divorce, it’s not unlikely that a tradition that we used to practice went away because it came from our ex-spouses family. Sometimes we feel cut out of that tradition, but actually it offers us to establish a new tradition of our own. Perhaps there were traditions that we participated in with our ex-spouse that we never really enjoyed. This is the perfect opportunity for us to create our own version of that tradition or an entirely new one.
4. Pamper Yourself
Have you ever purposely slept in late and brought breakfast back to your bed? Why not create a special nook to have tea or coffee and read the paper or a book? Does an extra long bath, with bubbles and candles spell R E L A X A T I O N? Add a bowl of fresh berries and a cold glass of water to re-hydrate yourself while your body enjoys the warm water.
Indulging yourself does not have to cost a fortune. Take a morning or afternoon and head to the beach to read a book that you haven’t gotten around to. As well needing friends, we also need to spend time alone, enjoying who we are and appreciating what makes us special. Go for a walk, or a bike ride, start an exercise routine that will de-stress us and provide us with health benefits too! Read a book about divorce recovery. Enlist the support of a counselor to talk with, if we feel stuck. Begin our own recovery journal.
5. Plan Your New Life
Now is the time to begin making plans for our future. This can take many forms. This may require research and brainstorming about such things as our career and education plan, our finances, our social and support circle, our family relationships, our parent child relationships, our health and our spiritual connections. It’s a good idea to jot these thoughts and ideas down on paper or our computer. We can expound on this, by writing specific steps and goals for ourselves over the short and long term to provide direction. Studies show that those who write down their goals are far more likely to accomplish them than those who never write them down.
Whatever we do during this time of year to nurture ourselves is sure to be of great benefit now and in the future. Be patient with ourselves and others along our journey!