• ellenbakercoaching

4 simple ways to a happy holiday season, even when you're divorced

During my nine-year marriage, I'd managed to convince my husband that the way my family of origin did the December holidays was the right way. Every year, we'd join my parents to celebrate Christmas with a turkey, stuffing, a huge tree, lots of presents, plus a Scandinavian dinner on Christmas Eve. After I got divorced and was on my own, having moved far away from my parents and ex-husband both, I struggled with what to do about the holiday season. It wasn’t that I wanted to recreate the exact same experiences, even if I could have. Nevertheless, there was an emptiness and difficulty about no longer having those familiar traditions – that old life and family feeling – in place.

And then I discovered how to embrace my new life in a new place, holidays and all.

1. Be grateful. Don’t think about what you don’t have – think about what you’re fortunate enough to have. If you find yourself feeling resentful or Grinch-like about your situation, tell those thoughts to “stop” – and think of something you’re grateful for. You can start as simple as “I’m grateful to have warm shelter and a comfortable bed” or “I’m grateful to have my dog to keep me company.” This simple switch of focus will lead to a big switch in attitude.

2. Acknowledge what you’ve lost. Accept that grief over the ending of a marriage is inevitable and will be along for the ride. Acceptance will allow a sense of calmness to enter in – and those feelings of sadness will no longer hold you back from enjoying yourself, even if they might still be present.

3. Give, give, give. Again, don’t think about what you’re not getting or what you no longer have. Think about someone who’s less fortunate than you and with whom you can share something meaningful. Whether this translates to volunteering at a soup kitchen, bringing cookies to an elderly neighbor, or hosting a dinner for other singles, once you create a little holiday cheer for someone else, you’ll resurrect the true meaning of the season – and a feeling of connection and happiness – for yourself.

4. Create family out of friends. “Friends are the family we choose” goes the saying, and there’s no better time to prove this out than the holidays. Plan a simple gathering, go caroling, exchange gifts. If you don’t have an obvious group of people in your life with which to put this into practice, begin creating that group right now by issuing invitations to those you think could be like family some day. Taking this step will go a long way toward taking the sting out of any loneliness you might feel this year, because you’ll know that it isn’t a permanent condition.

While holidays post-divorce are bound to be different than they were while you were married, these four simple steps can help bring the joy back into the season – and carry it through into the new year.

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