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8 Ways to Handle the Holiday Season if You’re Newly Separated or Divorced

This year may be different in terms of your family dynamic, but you can begin to put the wheels in motion for life after marriage.

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There’s no running away from the mix of negative emotions you’ll likely feel when you’re separating or divorcing. (And yes, we know it can be brutal at times.) When you’re experiencing a split around the holidays—a most romanticized season when nearly every commercial and movie depicts a large, happy family gathering—and you’ve got the potential for a miserable experience during the “most wonderful time of the year.” 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. This year may be different in terms of your family dynamic, but you can begin to put the wheels in motion for life after marriage. 

Here are eight ways to deal with the holiday season while recently separated or divorced.

1. Take the Time to Validate Your Feelings.
We totally understand why you’d be experiencing a variety of feelings right now. So don’t feel ashamed if you get emotional or if your feelings are all over the place. It’s completely normal for you to feel anything from sadness to rage at any given time. (And sometimes it may feel like you’re feeling them all at once.) This is a good time to spend time with family and friends, or to talk to a therapist or trusted clergyperson to help process your emotions as you move through a split at the holidays.

2. Set Realistic Expectations for This Holiday Season.
You may remember how National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation made fun of Clark Griswold, a man with such unrealistic “perfect” expectations for Christmas with his family that he almost had a nervous breakdown. If you’ve just gone through a split or are going through one during the holidays, you might feel pressure to have that “perfect” Norman Rockwell Hannukah or Christmas.

But the reality? There’s no “perfect” holiday. Don’t try to buy your children everything they ask for (including that pony) and don’t take on cooking a five-course holiday meal for 25 different family members (unless you really want to). Accept that things will go wrong, even if you just keep it simple.

Spend time with people you love to be around, and start some new holiday traditions.

3. Focus on Your Children.
If you’re feeling down about your split, your children are experiencing lots of emotions about how their holidays look different this year. So, if you have children, put your focus and energy on them.

If you have shared custody, be sure to work out the logistics of when you can spend time with the kids and plan new traditions for those special dates—be it something as simple as making a gingerbread house or as elaborate as going on a holiday-themed trip.

If you can’t see your children physically because of distance or the custody agreement on Christmas Eve or morning, call or FaceTime with them so they know you’re there for them. 

4. Hit the Holidays With a Plan.
While it’s important not to go overboard, it’s also important to have a plan worked out. First and foremost, make sure you have your custody arrangements planned out and agreed upon. It’s most helpful to think ahead to what you plan to cook and any other arrangements you need to make in advance. Your first holiday on your own isn’t the time to “wing it.”

5. Put Volunteering on Your Calendar.
If you’re on your own for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to do something for your community. Volunteer at your local food bank or homeless shelter. If you do have kids, include them in volunteering as well—and make this something you do every year.

The holidays aren’t just about enjoying yourself, but also about helping others. This would be the perfect way to do this and take your mind off your own troubles in the process.

6. Stay Off Social Media and Stay Busy.
There are two things that can really ruin your holidays without realizing it—social media and too much downtime. Social media can harm you by making you set unrealistic expectations. If you see that everyone else is taking a holiday trip to the Caribbean or attending endless parties with their significant other, it can make you long for what you don’t have. 

The same thing can come from just sitting at home staring at the walls. Your mind can be the worst “prison” in the world. Stay busy and keep your mind off your relationship status as much as possible.

7. Create Your Own Holiday Traditions.
You may be mourning the fact that your former family holiday traditions won’t happen in the same way anymore. As we’ve said, now’s the time to start a new family tradition. (You can even include close friends!) Plan a holiday movie marathon that puts everyone in a festive mood. Go Christmas caroling around the neighborhood. Pop on some holiday music in the car and tour the light displays in your town. Whatever you choose, make sure you can (and want) to do this for years to come.

8. Do Something You’ve Always Wanted.
Now’s also the perfect time to do something you’ve always wanted to do. And the beauty is, It can be anything. 

If you want to do a ski vacation during the holidays and spend the time enjoying nature in a cabin in the woods, then go for it. 

If you’ve wanted to cook a huge holiday meal for the first time, then give it a try.

Just be realistic in your expectations and don’t get upset if things don’t work out perfectly. Your holidays won’t be “ruined” as long as you are doing something important for yourself.

Make This Holiday’s Season About What You Need

Many people dread the holidays in general because of the commercialism and the stress to make everything perfect. This doesn’t have to be the case now that you’re divorced or separated. Set realistic expectations and plan out your holiday so you can truly enjoy it.

Contact the Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group, P.C. in Sewell, NJ Today

If you’re going through a divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, division of assets, or alimony, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group, P.C. represent clients throughout the state, including Williamstown, Gloucester City, Cherry Hill, and Marlton. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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