The Montfort Group

How To Cope With Divorce During The Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and for many, this means eagerly preparing for gatherings and celebrations, looking forward to quality time with family and friends, and reflecting on the year that was. If you are going through divorce, however, the season can feel anything but festive. All the excitement and sparkle can be a painful reminder of the life you lost. Rather than being merry and bright, you might find yourself overwhelmed by resentment, sadness, loneliness, and grief.

But rest assured, you do not have to dread the holidays. Here are some tips that will help you not only survive the season but find joy as well.

Practice acceptance

Acceptance is a big part of healing, so for those going through or moving beyond a divorce during the holidays, it’s important to accept that you did not get the fairy tale happy ending you imagined. Your world is different now and that’s OK. Holding on to the old narrative can leave you feeling angry, hopeless, or both. Accepting the new reality will allow you to gain some perspective and identify new opportunities to rebuild a sense of family, to create new rituals, and to reconnect with the benevolent spirit of the holidays.

Focus on values

The holidays are often a time when we get inspired to be kinder, more loving, more generous and more forgiving. It’s also a great time to take stock on what matters most to you. Now is the time to act on those things that will move you towards what is meaningful and enjoyable.

If you value love and connection, surround yourself with the people who love and support you no matter what: an impromptu dance party, eating pizza off paper plates while sitting on the floor, a holiday movie marathon, or whatever sounds like fun to you and would make you smile.  If you value community and generosity, volunteer for an organization that helps the less fortunate, support a friend in need, or do anything else that can bring happiness to someone else’s life. Values-driven actions will lift your spirit and may also help get you into the holiday spirit.

Make plans, but be flexible

Clarity and cooperation between partners are key when there are children involved – and this is especially true during the holidays. Work closely to sort out the visitation logistics ahead of time. Have a plan and communicate it to the children. It is important to think through and agree on all the details, but be prepared to make concessions or adjust your schedule as needed.

Avoid your triggers and do your best to manage your emotions, as this is not the time for retaliation and mudslinging. The holidays are already very stressful for children of divorce who often split their time between two households and navigate complex adult dynamics. Do your best to minimize negative interactions with your ex to help create a sense of normalcy and comfort for the kids.

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries ahead of time will help minimize conflict during the holidays. Be clear about what events you will attend and what topics you will be willing to discuss. Do not hesitate to turn down invitations that may trigger unpleasant emotions. You control your narrative, so decide how much or how little about your divorce you want to disclose. Not everyone has earned the privilege to know your inner world. Even better, prepare a script and stick to it. This will help you more easily manage the situation if “well-meaning” family members and friends get curious.

Be kind to yourself

The holidays are all about kindness, and that includes yourself, so now is the time to ditch the guilt and self-blame. A friend once likened her divorce to a medicine she took to heal herself. Except, she soon realized that the cure that brought her freedom and improved wellbeing had significant side effects that impacted everyone around her. Causing pain and grief to those she loved morphed into shame and later self-hatred, which led to more tension, isolation, and loss; and ripples continued to spread.

Unless you can find forgiveness and compassion for yourself, you won’t be able to create a supportive emotional environment for those left in the wake of your divorce. Your energy is better spent being an emotionally present and attuned parent, and working to restore the magic and fun of the holidays for your children who might otherwise feel guilty and confused.

Practice gratitude

This tip gets quite a bit of eyerolling from clients, as many of us struggle to appreciate the value of thankfulness and gratitude. To be clear, I am not suggesting toxic positivity or pretending everything is fine; but rather recognizing what is going well in our lives.  Research shows that daily gratitude practices can lead to better health, stronger relationships, and a greater sense of happiness.

You can experience holiday joy while navigating the stress and overwhelming emotions of divorce. The key is to prioritize the values, needs, and well-being of yourself and those you love.

Gergana Markov, MBA, MS, LPC

Gergana Markov, MBA, MS, LPC

I am a National Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas. I received my Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University and also hold a Masters in Business Administration from Georgia State University. I had a successful career in real estate acquisitions, corporate marketing, and advertising prior to becoming a counselor. My clinical training and experiences include counseling individuals, couples, and groups in various treatment settings, including private practice, community clinics, and hospitals. I am an EMDR trained therapist and utilize trauma-informed interventions in my practice. Additionally, I have specialized training in parent-child dynamics, gender and sexuality issues, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Safe Conversations for couples and communities. I am also a passionate LGBTQ+ ally.

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