Many thanks to Rosalind Sedacca for this article. Whether separated, divorced, feeling that "empty chair" around the dinner table, or missing someone who has passed away, Rosalind's suggestions are up-lifting.
By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Thanksgiving, Christmas – most any holiday -- can bring up painful memories of happier times, especially if you are divorced and have children. But keep in mind that with the pain comes a choice. You can choose to acknowledge the past for what it was. You can value the good times you might have had together. Then you can choose to move on and let go.
If you don’t, you will likely get stuck tormenting yourself with the "shoulds." We should still be a family today. He should be ashamed of what he's doing to us. She shouldn’t be able to have the kids on Christmas Day. I should be over this by now. It should be easier for me to move on – but it isn't. You get the idea.
Use this holiday season as a marker for starting a new mindset for yourself. You are creating a future that will be as positive for you as you allow it to be. Close the door to what was so you can open the door to brighter tomorrows – for yourself and your children. This holiday season and the ones to come can be weeks of great celebration for you if you start planting the seeds in your mind today.
Here are some useful tips for creating a positive mindset for the holidays.
Be your own best friend:
Divorce and its related stressors can take its toll on your self-esteem. It’s easy to start falling into cycles of despair, fear, anxiety and depression fueled by messages such as “who’s going to want me now?” or “how can I cope with all this pressure in my life?” This can certainly compound over the holidays, which add another layer of stress to family life. Use this time to celebrate you and starting a new chapter in your life. Look ahead to reinventing yourself in ways you’ve always wanted – and acknowledging yourself for assets you have that can be further explored. Take time to laugh and indulge in some holiday spirit. It’s good medicine for you and the children you love.
Focus on lifting the spirits of others:
Gratitude is a mindset that reminds us of our blessings. Do you have a loving relationship with your children? Do you have your health, a roof over your head, the income to purchase a few holiday gifts? Many people are not so fortunate. Be grateful for your blessings, share a smile or kind gesture with others, volunteer for the less fortunate and you will be rewarded in ways you never expected – physically, emotionally and spiritually!
Integrate – don’t isolate:
Take advantage of this social season to circulate and re-connect with family and friends. Plan some small gatherings with those you care about and accept a few invitations to get out and meet other people. Limit your “pity party” time to an hour or two. Then pick yourself up and get back into life. You’ll be surprised by the support systems available to you. You will also find that you are not alone in the post-divorce emotions and challenges you are experiencing. Be receptive to help and it will come to you.
Initiate New Holiday Traditions:
Remembering holiday traditions of the past can set you into a downward cycle and negatively affect your children, as well. This is the time to develop new ways of celebrating the holidays that you and your children can cherish and enjoy together. Perhaps it’s a special trip, celebrating with new friends and neighbors, attending special holiday events in your community or place of worship. Encourage your co-parent to do the same when the kids are with them, so that they have something to look forward to in each home.
Use this time of the year as the emotional starting point for bringing into focus the “you” you’ve always wanted to be. Visualize the future you desire. Make commitments to positive changes in your thoughts, habits and actions. By doing this, every year to come around holiday time you will be re-energized with positive appreciation rather than brought down by sadness and despair. The choice is yours. Embrace this season as the start of wonderful things to come and you’ll have much to celebrate in your future!
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! Please visit Rosalind's website for more information, free articles on child-centered divorce and her free ezine.