Whether it’s your first Christmas post-separation or fifth, whether you have children or not, Christmas is a tough time when it comes to divorce. On this week’s blog I share my top 5 ways to manage your wellbeing at Christmas during divorce.
1. Accept it’s hard
I’m all for looking on the bright side, focussing on the future, and having a positive mental attitude. But, it’s also really important to acknowledge difficult emotions. This is true all year round, but it’s especially true at Christmas!
This time of year, when we reflect on the previous 12 months and break from usual routines, is emotional. So, if you’re feeling sad, let the sad happen. If you’re feeling angry, let the rage flow. If you’re feeling stuck, like you need a good cry, find a weepy film that never fails and let the waterworks happen – it’s cathartic.
It’s natural to feel low when things have changed. You’re actually in a process of grief – grieving the imagined Christmases you thought you’d have forever. Don’t push that down. Acknowledge it. That’s the first step to moving on in a healthy way.
2. Focus on what’s important
One of the most difficult things to come to terms with is the change in traditions and routine. That’s true even if you didn’t particularly celebrate Christmas – at this time of year everyone takes a break and does things differently.
So think about what it is you love about the traditions or routines you’ve had in the past. How can you evolve them?
If you loved wrapping presents with your soon-to-be-ex, sharing a bottle of wine, watching Love Actually and catching up after the busyness of December, could you get a couple of friends together instead, and do it with them?
Focus on what’s underneath those traditions that’s so important to you, and find a way to bring it to life differently (and remember 25 December is just a date – you can recreate your traditions whenever you like!).
3. Break with tradition
If you can’t evolve a tradition, create new ones. If you’ve always been slaving in the kitchen cooking Christmas Dinner for eight, and it’s just you this year, why not pack a fancy picnic for yourself and drive to the beach, hills or woods instead? Or see if you can volunteer for a charity?
Whatever you do, make it intentional. Even if you feel like all you want to do is eat quality street in your pyjamas all day: decide that’s what you’re going to do. And do it! Eat the purple ones from the tin in new pyjamas you’ve bought, with your favourite Christmas films lined up because you’ve decided to make this Christmas ‘Chocolate Day’. It feels a million miles away from waking up on Christmas morning and not knowing what to do, so just eating whatever’s in the fridge and seeing what you can find to watch on TV.
4. Surround yourself with people who lift you up
You know who these people are: the people you can be yourself with. The people you can ugly cry with, and who can have you doubled up with laughter. Reach out to these people and get dates in the diary.
Divorce can be lonely, and Christmas can be lonely – loneliness squared. I get it, I do. Insider tip: please don’t take it personally if your friends and family seem to ditch you over the festive period. It’s a chaotic time, when it feels like everyone else has plans and you don’t. I’ve been there too.
If people’s diaries are full, just get dates in to see them in January. Know that you’ll have time with these people soon. And, in the meantime, do the things you love, or that you might love – take yourself out on dates. Watch all your guilty pleasures. Go to the cinema and watch that arthouse film from the 60s. Take out the watercolour set you got five years ago when you were feeling creative, fire up YouTube, and get your art on.
And – don’t be afraid of asking for what you need. If you’re feeling low over Christmas, and your BFF is at a huge family gathering on the other side of the country, don’t wait for her to text on Christmas Day. Instead, contact her and a few others and say, ‘These few days are going to be really hard for me – can you keep me going with some memes and gifs every now and then?!’ Most people aren’t selfish, but we all sometimes need a nudge to know we’re needed.
5. Have a brain break
It’s tempting to use the Christmas break to plough on with divorce paperwork, especially if you’re on your own. And, I’m not going to tell you not to do this. But please put some boundaries around it.
Most places close over Christmas, and are on skeleton staff the weeks before and after. So it’ll be a go-slow at the office. It’s fine to spend some time getting clear on what you want and need – maybe get your paperwork in order if you really want to. But then put it to one side. Know it can wait.
Ask yourself, ‘how can I bring myself comfort and joy this Christmas?’. And do that instead.
Let yourself rest. That’s the main thing I want you to take from this blog. If things feel hard, know they will get better. By next Christmas, you’ll be in a whole different place. You’ve got this, I promise.
And if you want to make sure you’re surrounded by supportive women who get it, and have all your divorce questions answered by me, come and join us in The Absolute Academy. Here’s what one of my amazing members says:
‘Emma, you’ve been my lifeline many a time, and I wouldn’t be here today with the choices I’m making without you, my lovely. So glad I found you.’
I’d love to be there for you too. Join us 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