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10 Ways to Cope with Christmas after Separation or Divorce

holidays and divorce

Just before Christmas several years ago I was given the word that my first marriage was about to end.  “Joy to the World” wasn’t exactly my first holiday sentiment. I was devastated.

Frankly, I did not want to be around happy people. My grief was too profound. Yet in the end, it turned out to be a blessing. The gathering of family and friends proved to be my soft place to land at a time I desperately needed comfort.

Holidays, especially those associated with traditions, have a crazy way of magnifying our losses. Blues can set in because of expectations, lost traditions, and changes in relationships. Holidays, and for me especially Christmas, are reminders that things are not the way they used to be.

Things are different when your marriage has ended. The good news is that Christmas offers an excellent time to cultivate your new life and refine your awareness of yourself as no longer married.

Christmas offers stability. No matter what else is happening in life, Christmas comes every December 25. It reminds us that God loves us and sent His son to earth to prove it.

You can survive the holidays and even find moments of joy and peace. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. See PossibilitiesRecognize Christmas as an opportunity to re-create yourself and help your kids too.
  2. Relax…Give yourself permission to chill. Make a commitment to yourself to do things you find relaxing. If tensions start to rise, pause and take a deep breath.
  3. Open Your Mind…Be willing to break with traditions and explore new ways of celebrating the holidays. Create but don’t force new traditions.
  4. Simplify…The holidays can be crazy busy but sometimes we make them more complicated than they have to be.
  5. Focus…Keep your focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is about celebrating the coming of Christ. This is a reason for joy that is powerful enough to lighten a heavy heart.
  6. Cap Your Spending…Be realistic about shifts in budget and don’t spend more than you should. Christmas isn’t about things. Overspending eventually results in stress.
  7. Release…Let your feelings out as needed. If you are sad, cry it out if that helps. Find friends, a counselor, or a support group who understands and is willing to be your sounding board when feelings about your separation or divorce swell.
  8. Plan…Anticipate trouble spots and plan how you will handle them if they arise. If possible, talk with your children’s other parent in advance regarding how Christmas will be for the children.
  9. Lend a Hand…Find ways to help others. Buy gifts for a needy child. Help a neighbor. Volunteer in the community or at your church. Take cookies to an elderly person. By spreading love you give and receive joy!
  10. Praise…Thank God that He can be counted on to see us through seasons of grief. The Bible tells us he can change ashes into beauty. Believe it!

Christian Thought for Today

 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

John 11:40 NIV

Have suggestions for dealing with the holidays?  Leave a comment.

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About the Author

Renee Smith Ettline, life after divorceRenee Smith Ettline, M.Ed. is founder of After Divorce Ministries, LLC, author of Peace after Divorce, and creator of the Peace after Divorce Workshop. Her Peace after Divorce Workshop group study is widely offered in churches and reaches across denominational lines.  She builds on her background as an educational counselor, her Christian faith, and her own divorce experience to light a path for those who need support for healing from divorce.


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