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First holiday season after divorce

The holidays can be a joyous time, no matter how you celebrate. However, for many of us, they can also be a time of heightened stress and even loneliness. For anyone who’s recently gone through a separation or divorce, this can be a particularly trying time of year.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of marriages in Australia end in divorce. That means, if you’ve recently gone through a divorce, you’re not alone. However, navigating this new territory can be difficult for both parties, as well as for immediate and extended family. During the holiday season, divorce and separation can seem particularly painful. In this blog article, we offer some insights into how to make it through the holiday season after a recent divorce or separation.

First and foremost, it’s important to be realistic about your expectations for the holiday season after you’ve gone through a divorce or separation. Whether your divorce or separation was made on amicable terms, or was acrimonious, there’s no denying that the change in your circumstances is going to make this time of year challenging. So, yes, it might not be easy. But, do the holidays need to be completely awful? No! Here’s how to make the most of these holidays after a divorce or separation:

Do you always host Christmas Day celebrations for extended family, including the in-laws? Needless to say, this year is going to be a little different. Now’s the time to take stock of the situation and decide what’s the best option for celebrations – not only for you, but for the rest of the family.

Do you have children? A divorce or separation is a time of transition and means making new traditions – so use this as an opportunity to create traditions which involve the kids. If you’re on good enough terms with your ex-partner, you might decide to spend a couple of hours together with the whole family, as you used to do. Then, you can incorporate a new element to your celebrations, such as separate holiday-themed activities for both you and your ex-partner.

If children aren’t in the picture, you’re in a position to decide what works best for you on these holiday occasions. You might decide to join in on family celebrations with your own side of the family, to join in with some friends’ celebrations, or to skip celebrations altogether and take some time for self-care. The important thing to remember is that this is a time of change, no matter your situation, and that change takes time to accept. Reassess what’s important to you – be it your family, your friends, or taking a little more time for yourself – and build your new holiday traditions around that.

Comparison is the thief of happiness. Comparing your situation to that of others around you is not only going to cause you more distress, it’s also an incredibly inaccurate way to measure your life. In the age of social media, it can seem as though everyone in the world is leading a fantastically successful life except you. This is particularly true during the holiday season, as advertisements of ‘perfect families’ and ‘happy couples’ go into overdrive. It’s simply not true that everyone else is leading a perfect life, and ignores the fact that everyone is going through their own personal struggles. You are no more or less valuable because of your separation or divorce, and your situation is unique to you, so don’t get stuck in the trap of making comparisons. Instead, focus on the positive, as we discuss in our next point.  

Sure, things are probably feeling very difficult right now, and you’re still working through the wave of emotions that divorce and separation can bring. It can be easy to become bogged down in the negative side of things, however, now is an important time for taking stock of your life and reassessing things. Have a think about:

  • What were the reasons for the divorce/separation?
  • What sacrifices was I making before the divorce and how have these changed?
  • How can this new stage in my life be positive?
  • What new freedoms do I now enjoy?
  • How can I take time for myself, to grow and develop?
  • What are some of the things I’ve always wanted to do?
  • What new goals am I going to aspire to?
  • What’s really important to me?

Looking forward to new goals and thinking hard about what’s really important to you are key to making this transition a time for growth.

The holiday season is traditionally a time for connecting with friends and family. After a divorce or separation, it can be tempting to pull away from those we love because of a sense of shame and sadness. However, leaning on those who love and support you can be one of the most effective ways to make it through the holiday season, and who knows, even enjoy yourself a little!

Going through a divorce and becoming newly single is tough, there’s no denying that. However, it’s also an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, loan a shoulder to cry on, and make plans for the future. The holidays are the perfect time to make the most of the festive spirit and celebrate this new stage in your life. Here are some things you might consider doing, to get into the holiday spirit this season:

  • Attend Christmas parties and functions with friends, colleagues and family
  • Create some new traditions for yourself and/or your kids, which you can all enjoy
  • Make a list of resolutions or goals for the new year
  • Focus on your own personal growth
  • Reconnect with friends and family and strengthen bonds
  • Let your loved ones, colleagues and friends know what you’re happy to talk about and what’s off limits
  • Avoid making comparisons, and instead focus on personal development
  • Take it easy on yourself and know that it takes time to heal

If you’re struggling with your first holiday season after a divorce or separation, seeking some help from a counsellor or psychologist can be helpful. Get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can help you to navigate this transitional stage in your life and enjoy your holidays this year.

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen