By: Eronn A. Putman
Divorce can be so traumatic to the mind, body, and immune system that it can lead to depression, anxiety, and psychological illness. For many, this experience happens at a time that is usually marked with apple cider, Christmas carols and a repeat of Mariah Carey’s 1994 classic. Dealing with divorce during the holiday season can be extremely difficult and may add an additional layer of grief and loneliness as the process can turn “the most wonderful time of the year” to a “lonely Christmas Eve.”
Traditions change, expectations are unmet and if children are a factor, keeping them well adjusted while sharing time with your ex-spouse may be overwhelming. To help you enjoy this holiday season instead of dreading it, consider using these tactics to cope with divorce during the holidays:
- Have Your Home Reflect What’s On the Outside and Not the Inside
We are instructed early on that it is what is on the inside that counts. Understandably during the divorce your insides feel raw and if they could talk, you would not want to have that conversation in front of your mother. Decorate the tree, put up obnoxious lighting, blast the smoothest version of The Christmas Song, spike the eggnog and try your damnest to have yourself a merry little Christmas.
- Create New Traditions
Maybe the family went to your in-laws every year or hosted a fancy Christmas Eve feast. You can experience the holidays in any way you want now. Buy onesies and start a Secret Santa gift exchange. If you live in Texas and always dreamed out a white Christmas, travel to New York City, Toronto or even London this holiday season!
- Don’t Compete With Your Ex-Spouse on Gift Giving
Parenting is a collaboration, not a competition. You cannot buy children. Gifts don’t need to be purchased to be appreciated. Sometimes the gift of time and attention means more than any store-bought gift ever could. Spend on your children according to your normal budget. Guilt gift giving will not alleviate your feelings in the long run.
- Follow Your Court-Ordered Visitation Schedule
If you and your ex-spouse have temporary orders in place or a final divorce decree that describes a visitation schedule under the Standard Possession Order, the Christmas/ New Years holiday is shared by both parents. That means one parents gets the “first half” of the Christmas holiday and the other parent gets the “second half.” Consult your individual order for specifics. If you and your ex-spouse do not have a court order, start planning the holiday schedules now. Be mindful that holiday breaks are typically two weeks for school-age children so there is ample time for both parents to spend the holidays with the children. Whatever you do, remember this: Holidays come and go. Your kids will too. One day there won’t be a decree telling you who goes where and what days are yours.
- Spend Time with Family and Friends
It’s a fact: There’s no place like home for the holidays. Not the physical home you once shared with your former spouse. The “home” that includes family, friends and familiar faces. It may be at your parent’s house, your college roommates house or your favorite restaurant. One thing that helps during the divorce is to reconnect with home. People are a good distraction from the past and if you do have a down moment, you will be surrounded by people who love you and can help pull you out of a funk.
- Count Your Blessings
Carol of the Bells, a popular Christmas carol, is a song that describes going into a household to proclaim the bountiful year that the family will have. Divorce may have left you feeling robbed of your identity and your future. Making a list of your blessings and the things you have to be thankful for provides a mental and emotional boost. Putting your lyrical gratitude list to the music of Carol of the Bells is a creative outlet that can serve as a reminder of the positive side of your new life adventure.
- Be realistic
The cold weather may brew colder feelings. It is acceptable to have these emotions. It is even okay to plan the perfect evening being alone listening to Silent Night with a glass of cognac. Acknowledge the loss, but avoid emotional triggers. Your life is in the midst of a major change. Just because the seasons change, that doesn’t mean the effects of the divorce has been alleviated. Take your time to move forward.
The Putman Firm, PLLC is a family law litigation firm that handles a wide array of family matters including criminal matters that intersect family law, i.e. family violence assault cases, protective orders (criminal and civil) and allegations of child abuse.
If you or someone you know is facing a challenging family matter, contact The Putman Firm, PLLC at (281) 501-9033.