When Holidays are Hard After Divorce

During the holidays, we are bombarded with reminders of traditions, family gatherings, and togetherness. These things all look a little different after a divorce. They may even be painful reminders that your family is no longer what it once was or what you thought it would be.

I will never forget the first time I had to drop off my kids to my ex in a parking lot on Thanksgiving morning. I fought back tears as I hugged them goodbye and told them to have fun. Once they were settled into the car, I let the tears flow. I scowled at him and choked out “I never wanted to be without my kids on holidays”.

I got in my car and watched them drive away to spend Thanksgiving with his sister’s family and his parents. Thanksgiving day was always with his side of the family. That was our tradition. A tradition I was no longer a part of. Things were different now and the reality was that there were certain holidays that I was not going to be with my children, my family. In my mind, this wasn’t fair. He had the affair, not me. He chose this, not me. I also knew that my kids needed to be a part of both families. So, like it or not, this was the new normal for holidays.

I would like to say that this process gets easier, but it doesn’t. It may be less raw as time goes on. You may be able to exchange the kids without tears at some point. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to be the one who feels on the outside looking in at these time. There are a few things you can do to make holidays not as hard during and after a divorce.

  1. Make a Plan– Ready or not, here the holidays come! It’s inevitable, so don’t let it sneak up on you. Plan your time with your family and friends, as well as your kids. This will give you something to look forward to!
  2. Don’t do it Alone– You may feel like the odd person out, but your friends and family want to help support you. Say yes to holiday invites. Surround yourself with those who support you.
  3. Start New Traditions– We often hear the word tradition and think of “what is always done”, but things are different now. It’s time to start new ones and you can be as creative as you want. Maybe you pick a different day to celebrate “Mom’s Christmas” or have “Thanksgiving Do Over Day”. Maybe you leave town and head to a new scenery altogether. These things can become the new traditions to look forward to each year. Also add in fun traditions leading up to the event that can be continued each year, no matter who’s year it is to have the actual holiday.
  4. Take Time for Yourself– With the rollercoaster of emotions that you are likely experiencing, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time to process your feelings. Do not push them away. Change is hard, so take it easy on yourself.
  5. Look Ahead– If the holidays are just down right overwhelming, keep your focus on what’s ahead for the new year. This is a great time to set new goals for yourself and plan ahead. Ring in the new year with thoughts of hope and positive change!

For those who are struggling with finding the new holiday normal after divorce, I see you. You are not alone. Reach out to your support system and allow them to help you though this time. You can still have holiday traditions, family gatherings, and togetherness after divorce, it may just look a little different!