Handling the holidays during or after a Massachusetts divorce can seem extremely difficult. Separate celebrations, reminiscing on old traditions, missing out on in-laws (if you had a good relationship with them), and so many more aspects of the holidays that you formerly loved — but now mourn.
Nevertheless, it's critical to keep calm and carry on. Your marriage may be over, but there are ways that you can enjoy the holidays and create new traditions.
Make a plan of action
This may seem fairly simple if you’re on civil terms with your ex. You can figure out who will go to what holiday parties — or perhaps you can both go and still enjoy the experience — and you can plan for any joint celebrations (particularly if you have children together). Not to mention, you should discuss whether or not you plan to give each other's family gifts, despite being divorced.
If you're not on good terms with your ex, making a plan of action that is positive and inclusive may seem improbable— or in some cases, downright impossible. If that is the situation you are in, you have to make your own calls and protect your best interests. If you have children, make sure there is an agreed upon parenting schedule far in advance. Make sure pick up and drop off times, and schedules are very clear and agreed to.
If no children are involved, the logistics may be less complex but can feel equally as daunting. Are you going to go to holiday parties held by mutual friends and ignore each other? Will you ask friends in advance if your ex is coming? Will you avoid any events (at which you may cross paths with your ex) at all costs? Would you rather start from square one with a new social group than dare share similar circles with your ex? There are an immense amount of questions you need to address, and only you know the correct answers.
So much may have changed since your divorce. You are likely living in a different place, with a different financial status, and you may even be trying to establish a different group of friends. Top that off with the fact that you may have less free time thanks to all of these changes, your head may be spinning.
Therefore, the holidays may look, feel, and unfold much differently than they did in past years. These changes may seem stressful at first, but your life post-divorce will be most enjoyable when you can be realistic and roll with the punches. Before the holidays hit, assess your plans, your time, and how you plan stay positive despite the multitude of changes you’re experiencing.
Lean on family and friends
Friends and family are trusted pillars of strength and are also shoulders to cry on. The holiday season is an excellent opportunity to embrace your support system not only for advice, but for warmth, camaraderie, and love. Perhaps most important is the commitment to spend the holidays around loved ones. A divorce from your partner doesn’t mean that you have to lose the love of the holidays and spend them alone.
And hey, if you’re at the point where you’re considering dating again, the holiday season could be an opportune time to find someone under the mistletoe.
Make new traditions
It is natural to resent giving up traditions from years past. However, your new life is an opportunity to say ‘goodbye’ to old ways and establish new traditions. These new traditions are crucial for finding happiness and appreciation around the holidays.
If you have children, they may be longing even more for the traditions they have grown up with. Instead of trying to recreate holidays past, work on creating new traditions that your children can look forward to. Give them the reigns on what they would like these new traditions to be, so that they feel a sense of contribution.
Children come first.
The holidays in combination with a pending or recent divorce can take a toll on your children. While friends and classmates may be talking about their traditional family parties and holiday activities, your child is adjusting to life without both parents under one roof, and adapting to the idea of new traditions. Find a way to make the holidays as pleasant as possible for them, and do your best to cooperate with your co-parent. Make sure your children have a support system in place, friends to talk to, and an adult, either a therapist or relative/family friend they can confide in. Of course, co-parenting successfully is easier said than done. A parenting coordinator can be a helpful tool for co-parents who have a difficult time communicating. Think of your children first- you’ll want them to find as much peace, love, and joy as possible during this holiday season.
Sure, getting divorced was not what you had envisioned, but it is important to practice gratitude for what you have. When moments of stress or lamentation rear their ugly heads, practice mindfulness and gratitude. Take a few minutes each day to sit and quietly think about the blessings in your life. (And yes, we all have them.) Not only is this a good habit for the holidays, but for every season of your life as well.
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Julia Rodgers is the firm's business director. You can read her full bio here.
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