Putting your divorce down over Christmas is a powerful, empowering act. It allows you to step away, and get a fresh perspective. It means you can have time reconnecting with yourself, and loved ones. And it means you will be ready to act in the new year. But how can you stop your divorce looming over you through the festive season? Here are three ways to have peace of mind with your divorce this Christmas.
Give yourself a break
You may have already decided that Christmas is when you’re going to motor ahead with your divorce. There are lots of reasons why many of us don’t feel full of seasonal cheer over Christmas: maybe it isn’t something you celebrate, religiously or culturally. Maybe you have difficult family relations and you’d rather treat Christmas as ‘just another day’. Maybe your divorce means Christmas feels extra poignant and painful this year, and you just want to throw everything at it being over.
Whatever your feelings about the Christmas period, one thing is true. It’s pretty much the only time of year in the UK when the whole country stops for a few days. Yes, emergency services are still in place, thank goodness. But, most offices, workplaces, schools and community services close. This makes it a perfect opportunity for you to take a break too.
If you try and motor ahead with your divorce over Christmas you’ll be swimming against the tide. The courts will wind down and be on skeleton staff. It’s likely your legal team will be on annual leave. Friends and family might lend a listening ear, but ultimately they want to switch off too.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do some organising and decision-making. If this is the only time you get some headspace, maybe because your children are with their other parent, then, go for it. As I’ll go on to explain in a moment, facing things head on can bring a sense of peace, rather than hiding and avoiding.
But put boundaries around it. Decide in advance which will be ‘divorce days’ and which will be complete days off. The days off are worth their weight in gold. We all need recovery time. Our ability to problem solve and respond creatively comes into play when we take some time away from what we’re dealing with. Just think of Archimedes and his ‘eureka!’ moment in the bath!
And give yourself as much time off as possible.
Taking time off doesn’t just mean heaving a huge sigh of relief and running away! Fear and avoidance can play a huge part of divorce – and they can mean we self sabotage. Remember that you are the CEO of your divorce. However difficult a situation is, you need to deal with it. Sometimes you need rest, advice, or help before you can do that properly, but you still need to be able to understand the situation for what it is.
So, before you put away your divorce for Christmas, give yourself some time to put everything in order:
- Do an audit: are you waiting for a response from your solicitor on something? Make a note to remind yourself that’s where it’s got to. The same if you’re waiting on information from your soon-to-be-ex, their legal representative, a bank, or anyone else. If it’s you that needs to reply, do it if it’s a quick thing. Or if it’s not, make a note of the decision you have to make. Have a ‘current status’ check so you don’t have to spend January trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing.
- Set an out of office on your email so that your soon-to-be-ex, solicitors and other agencies know in advance that you are not available. Everyone is entitled to a break, so don’t let your soon-to-be-ex bully you about it. Simply let them know you will return to looking at your correspondence on 3 January (or whichever date you choose!).
- Put files and paperwork in one place, digitally as well. This way they’ll be out of sight, and you’ll also find it easier to pick everything back up again. It’s far less daunting to return to something knowing you left it in good order, than dread opening the box because the chaos feels overwhelming.
Do something completely different
Christmas can be hard, but do something nice for yourself, even if it’s small. A gesture as small as buying yourself a bunch of flowers or a fancy coffee can remind you of your self-worth.
Sometimes it’s hard to get out of your own head when you’re in a bad place. So make judicious use of helpful distractions to get away from usual routines. Be honest with friends and say you could use a chat, whether it’s over the phone, in a cafe, during a walk, or over a bottle of wine. Read page-turner books that let you escape for a while or seek out the Christmas films you love.
Take some time to reward yourself for everything you’ve survived this year. When you’re in the middle of divorce it’s easy to normalise it. But divorce is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. You’re allowed to find it hard. Treat yourself as you would your child or best friend: remind yourself of how far you’ve come. And reward yourself: if funds allow, book yourself in for a spa afternoon or similar. If not, create one at home, or do something else that makes you feel human and nourished.
Don’t try to recreate Christmases past in exactly the same way. Life has changed, and there’s no getting away from that. Instead, think about what’s important about those old memories. What values under pinned them? Then create something new with those values in mind.
For example, if a big part of your Christmas is opening presents all together, but you won’t be with the children on Christmas Day, what can you do in the spirit of that value? You can create a special time for present opening with the children, maybe? And organise a silly secret Santa with other single friends for a completely different sort of present opening over buck’s fizz on the big day itself.
Get organised for 2023
If you want to put away your divorce for Christmas knowing you’ll be bossing it in 2023, get yourself booked in for a January call with me! No better way to start the year. You’ll get a complementary 30 minute conversation where I will really listen to where you’re at and help you decide your next steps. My diary is open for January calls, and you can book one here.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the 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. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com