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Having a Happy (Single) Holiday Season

November 09, 2021

The holidays are about family. And that fact can be painful for someone whose family has radically changed due to a divorce. Maybe this is the first holiday season you'll spend "alone" in a very long time.

While learning to be unmatched during this festive season may not be easy, it's doable.

Here are some practical tips on getting through and finding some joy.

Redefine Family

Family isn't just your children, your spouse, or even your blood relatives. Remember, your friends are "the family you choose."

If you found your tribe and that tribe helped you through your divorce, let them be there for you during the holidays.

Say yes to invitations (even if it feels awkward), and don't be afraid to share any feelings of sadness, isolation, or loneliness you may have.

You're likely to get a listening ear and a seat at the table.

Consider the Upside

Being single at holiday time has some upsides. Were you the one stuck doing all the planning, shopping, gift wrapping, meal preparation, and cleanup each holiday season? Maybe not being on the hook for all that feels good.

Did you ever find yourself spending time with your ex-spouse's family and feeling miserable about it?

Great news! You don't have to do that anymore.

Were there traditions and obligations that you just really didn't like? The upside is that you are free of those — and free to make your own traditions.

Read: Can Divorce Be a Good Thing?

Make New Traditions

One of the hardest parts of a family changing through divorce is the loss of treasured traditions.

But you can make new ones.

Take this opportunity to establish new rituals and traditions for your reformatted family.

Did your family have a treasured Christmas Day activity? Maybe you can find a wonderful new Christmas Eve tradition.

Were your Thanksgiving celebrations large affairs with lots of relatives and too many dishes to wash? Maybe this is the year to embrace a more intimate meal.

Did you spend every New Year's Eve at home on the couch with the kids tucked in bed? Maybe a party with champagne and noisemakers is more your speed. Or maybe you let the kids stay up with you for a sparkling cider toast at midnight.

You have the power to choose, and the power to start a new treasured tradition.

Read: Dealing With Firsts: Grieving Your Divorce Through Important Dates

Embrace Simplicity

It happens nearly every holiday season. We all get so wrapped up in the shopping, decorating, party planning, party going, making big meals, and trying to have a picture-perfect holiday that we end up being more miserable than anything.

If you've ever thought that the holidays would be more fun if you could just sit back and enjoy, now's your chance.

The change that divorce brings about is the perfect excuse to slow things down, opt out of the stressful stuff, and do only the things that bring you joy.

Give Yourself a Gift

The year that I divorced, I said no to a lot of things.

I declined party invitations, avoided traveling long distances to see family that I knew would leave me feeling stressed, and largely kept my own company.

Those choices were about giving myself the time and space I needed to heal.

But I wasn't deprived or lonely.

I traveled to destinations that were interesting and fun. I spent time nurturing hobbies I enjoyed. I bought myself small luxuries to enhance my everyday life.

In short, I gave myself both material gifts and the gift of "self-care."

Read: What I Learned When I Left My Marriage: A Personal Essay

Give Back

There are few things in the world that are more fulfilling than giving back to your community.

If it's too painful to attend celebrations, or you just can't deal with relatives, colleagues, and others, look for volunteer opportunities instead.

The holiday season is a time when help is greatly needed, and volunteering will keep you busy, give you a sense of purpose, and give you a way to generate some "warm fuzzies."

Maybe volunteering to help others will become your new tradition and be central to how you celebrate in the future.

Grieve If You Need

If your divorce is recent, you may still be grieving. In that case, it's OK to opt out of holiday obligations.

Aren't feeling up to the company holiday party? Politely decline.

Can't bear to hit the mall for Christmas shopping? Give gift cards.

Not up to an all-night rager to ring in the New Year? Go to bed early and wake up well-rested.

Do what you need to do in order to feel OK.

The best coping strategy in any stressful time of transition is to never get too tired, too hungry, or too lonely.

May your holiday season be filled with more joy than you expected and more comfort than you thought you needed.