Moving through divorce is difficult no matter what the season, but the big December holidays can intensify feelings of sadness and loss. The omnipresent images of love, family, and festive merry-making rub salt into the wounds of the newly separated and divorced, and it can be tempting to isolate or simply avoid the holidays altogether.
But know there are ALWAYS CHOICES. You can CHOOSE to use this holiday season as a marker for new beginnings. Here are 5 tips to move through the holidays as authentically as possible, so you can close the chapters of the past and open to those of the future.
1. Embrace all your feelings, even the painful ones
Take a deep breath and acknowledge this is a challenging time. Many people try to avoid painful feelings by eating or drinking too much, binge-shopping, stuffing feelings away and pretending they don’t exist, or distracting themselves with the media, extra work or other busy-ness.
While these strategies are OK in small doses, over the long haul, they are not helpful. Unprocessed emotions can get stuck in the body and cause problems down the road such as physical pain, depression, illnesses or dis-empowering habits. On the other hand, many people spend too much time wallowing in grief, making it difficult to move on.
In my practice I emphasize deeply processing all painful emotions so they move through the body and don’t get stuck. The mind-body technique of EFT is very powerful for transforming emotions, and the first step is to simply acknowledge, accept and even embrace them.
When painful feelings come up, acknowledge their presence. Give them a voice and listen to what they have to say. Journal about them, and then move on to other parts of your life.
2. Nurture Yourself
Divorce can take a big toll on self-esteem and peace of mind. Holidays, with all their expectations and complications, add extra layers of stress and tend to intensify anxiety and pressure.
Amid the hustle and bustle take time out to nurture yourself. Here are some ideas:
• Fill the tub with a soothing bubble bath, light a candle and play soft music
• Schedule a massage or spa day
• Plan a fun day with a friend or family member
• Watch something funny or find another way to laugh
• Read a new book or re-read an old favorite
• Spend time in nature
• Set aside time for doing things that bring you joy
Also, be sure to schedule movement into your life, whether it be playing a sport, taking a class at the gym, or going for a walk. There is no better way to relieve stress and feel grounded in your body.
Most of all, use this time to celebrate you and the fact that you’re starting a new chapter in your life. Acknowledge your strengths and look ahead to exploring new sides of yourself. Create a vision for how you would like the new year to look.
3. Practice gratitude
Even though you are experiencing a rough patch right now, we all have things to be grateful for. Do you have a roof over your head? Food in the fridge? Warm clothes to wear? Do you have at least one friend or family member who cares about you? Many people are not so fortunate.
What you focus on expands. Do you wish to expand your blessings or your sorrows? Use this holiday time to focus on all you are grateful for. Make a list of at least ten blessings in your life and read that list every day. Once you get started, you may find that list grows rapidly! I can’t tell you how much this simple shift of focus has transformed my own life as well as the lives of my clients.
4. Reach out to others
Although spending time alone to process your thoughts and feelings is important, be sure to create a balance by reaching out to others. Your first holiday season after a break-up can be an emotional roller coaster, so don’t try to ride it alone! Make plans with friends and family who bring you joy, reach out to other divorcees, or join a support group. It can be helpful to be around people who know what you’re going through, and it’s comforting to know you’re not alone in the post-divorce emotions and challenges you’re experiencing. Be open and receptive to help and you will find it!
5. Create new holiday traditions
Rigidly sticking to old traditions or constantly comparing this holiday season to past holidays can intensify feelings of grief and loss, and it becomes all too easy to “should yourself.” For example, you may be thinking, “we SHOULD still be together as a family, he SHOULD be ashamed of what he’s done, I SHOULD have the kids for Christmas morning, or I SHOULD be over this by now.” If you catch yourself going down that rabbit hole, redirect your thinking.
This is the time to develop new ways of celebrating the holidays. Perhaps it’s going on a trip, celebrating with new friends or neighbors, attending events in your community or spiritual center, or volunteering to help those less fortunate than yourself. Be open to creating new traditions for yourself and your children and including new people in your life.
Most of all, proclaim this season as the emotional starting point for ringing in the new. Even though this is possibly one of the most painful times of your life, you can use this pain as a catalyst to create the life you’ve always wanted.
In my program “Finding P.E.A.C.E. in the Pieces,” I help women move from pain to peace, trauma to transformation and create a beautiful new life after divorce. For more information on this powerful recovery and empowerment program, click here. Or, to learn more about the 5- Step P.E.A.C.E. process, attend my webinar “5 Steps to Move from Pain to Peace, Trauma to Transformation During Divorce” by clicking here.