Lonely this Christmas?
There are plenty of ‘blue Christmas’ songs for us to sob our hearts out to over the festive season. Think Bridget Jones and a bottle of wine – you get the picture. And whether this is your first Christmas after separation or your tenth, you may feel like going all-out Bridget. But what we tell ourselves becomes our reality. Yes – the dreaded self-fulfilling prophecy again.
Whether you’ll be lonely this Christmas is as much to do with your attitude and your state of mind as whether you spend it alone or not. How you handle Christmas is within your gift (pun intended). Here’s how to choose.
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to
As the CEO of your divorce and your own life you get to decide. If you really do want to hunker down and cry it really is okay. You don’t have to pretend to be happy when you’re not. Life is not picture-perfect all the time. You might be heartbroken to be without your children. You might be grieving Christmases from happier times with your ex, and mourning Christmases you thought would happen but now won’t.
If this is your Christmas to grieve, go with the flow. Allow yourself that time with grace and self-compassion. It doesn’t mean you’ll do it every year.
You may notice resistance from those around you – friends and well-meaning family who are horrified that you want to be alone. Remember, that’s their business, not yours. You don’t have to be a ‘good girl’ and please them. Thank them politely and firmly tell them what you want and need for yourself this year. Let them know that you might change your mind and join the party at the last minute (and that’s ok too)!
Christmas your way
You get to decide what you do over the holidays. If you have children and they are spending some of the holidays elsewhere, fill the gap with activities you choose, entirely for yourself. Things that in the past you’d have loved to do but couldn’t because they weren’t child-friendly.
If you know that getting out rather than hunkering down is what you need – do it. Reach out to friends, let them know. You’ll be surprised at how many people will be feeling the same need to connect. Or even get away – last minute winter sun? Volunteering opportunities? House or pet sitting in a different part of the country you’ve always wanted to visit?
If you stay at home, you are bound by precisely zero Christmas traditions. Want to stay in bed all day with a pile of books, a bottle of prosecco and boxes of chocolates? Do it. Bangers and mash for lunch? Fine! You’re CEO and the only rules are the ones you make for yourself.
No rose-tinted glasses
If you’re like many of my clients, if I asked you in September or January you’d recall miserable family Christmases of yesteryear. A house full of people, arguments and thankless chores. In December it’s easy to forget that reality, and piece together a rosy Christmas past that was amazing, by borrowing 20 minutes from 2015, an hour from 2017…. Times when you did have fun, yes, but if you’re honest, were surrounded by a whole load of misery, guilt and loneliness too.
Recall the reality of Christmas past for what it was – good and bad. How can you make Christmas happier for yourself this Christmas and in future? What traditions will you keep, and modify if need be? What will you start doing? Importantly, what will you stop doing?
Enjoy your own company
If you’re used to a house full of children, it can feel really odd when they aren’t there. You miss the noise and hub-bub. You may even miss some of the bickering and arguing! Equally, if you don’t have children, you may miss having your ex’s family around – even if you didn’t get on with them all that well.
Sometimes, we miss the noise and busyness because we feel uncomfortable with ourselves. Dealing with other people means we don’t have to focus on ourselves – ouch!
Notice your self-talk in the silence. What’s it saying to you? What messages are you giving yourself? Where is the evidence that any of that is true?
Use the time you have to be kind to yourself. Nurture yourself. Make plans without getting distracted. Get out a notebook or piece of paper and write at the top ‘What do I want from 2020?’. Then sit down and write. You may find you distract yourself (reaching for the phone, making a cup of coffee, getting caught up in a twitter spat)… this is evidence that you will benefit from doing this exercise even more! If you find it hard to focus, set a timer for 20 minutes and try to stick to that.
The greatest gift
The greatest gift is giving to yourself first. You may have read this before, but it’s true: you need to put your own oxygen mask on first, just like they tell you before the plane takes off. When you do this, you have more to give to others, whether your children, friends and family. Everyone wins.
Your time out may be a few hours, a few days or even a week or two. Use the time you have in a way that works for you. Planning will help you enjoy and make the most of that time. If you’re feeling frazzled right now, it’ll give you something to look forward to!
Time out of work and responsibility is truly a gift. If you are going to be with loved ones, let them have the gift of nurturing you. You deserve it. Learning to receive is as important as learning to give.
Receiving any support that is offered allows both of you to experience the magic of human connection – giving and receiving is beautiful. And it’s what Christmas is about. If you’re spending Christmas alone, the most important gift you can give yourself is the truth that you are worthy of your own care, nurture, kindness and respect.
The Absolute Academy
In January 2020 the monthly investment for the Absolute Academy is increasing to £147 per month for new members. That means that if you are an existing member, you continue to pay the price you joined at. So, if you want to lock in the £97 per month price, join now. You’ll receive a 20% discount on working with me 1:1 should you need to. You’ll have access to me 7 days a week via Facebook and get to have your divorce questions answered live on the Friday live stream. With legal advice costing at least £250 per hour and your solicitor charging you on average £22-£30 for every email they send, joining the Absolute Academy can save you thousands. You can join here The Absolute Academy – if you have any questions about how membership can support you, drop me a line.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com