For many of us, the holidays can feel dark, lonely, and stressful — especially if we are going through or recovering from divorce. Instead of looking forward to the beautiful decorations, smell of baking pies, and holiday songs on the radio, we may feel triggered by sadness.
Moving on after divorce doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the holidays. In fact, we can make them better than ever before if we remember a few things.
Manage expectations, but remain optimistic.
For years, we have been inundated with people telling us how the holidays “should” be. It could be from watching impossibly staged meals on cooking shows. It might be from pictures we see in the media of the perfect holidays or from family members who say “but we’ve always done it this way.” We have been taught to do whatever everybody else wants to do. Often, we have never learned to imagine how we want the holidays to be for ourselves.
So it’s no wonder we feel lonely or stressed when we are spending the holidays alone.
These unrealistic expectations of perfect holidays and families getting along have conditioned us to feel as if we are not up to those standards. We feel that we are wrong, and that we’re not celebrating the holidays “the right way.”
You have worked too hard over the years and deserve more than to get sucked into the idea that you’re doing the holidays wrong. This year, it is time to envision what the best holiday season means for you, regardless of where you are in your life.
If you are alone, you are still worthy of celebrating the season any way you like. A change in family circumstance does not mean you are sentenced to feel bad. It just means that you are now given an opportunity to decide how you want the holidays to be, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Your selective memory may be your worst enemy.
When we are alone, we tend to think about the times when the family was together, when the marriage was strong, and when the holidays were “perfect.” We’re all guilty of remembering our past holidays when we were still married as perfect. It’s easy to fall into this trap when we are divorced.
But what we forget are all the things that weren’t great during the holidays pre-divorce. When we shut those not-so-perfect memories of family holidays out, we are subconsciously setting ourselves up for failure. We are holding our current holiday mood up to an impossible standard of selective memories that may not be correct. We often do this when we are feeling down, trying to imagine a happier time.
This way of thinking does not serve you because you are holding yourself to an ideal that is impossible to attain. Making yourself feel guilty or resentful or longing for the past will not serve you this holiday season. The only way to start loving the holidays again is to reclaim them for yourself — now.
Embrace the season instead of dreading it.
During the holidays, especially the times when you were married or raising a family, you were probably so caught up in trying to please others. You were almost certainly trying to make things so perfect that you never took the time for yourself.
But overlooking your own needs to stops now.
This holiday, especially if you are spending it by yourself and are worried about being lonely, gives you a unique gift. This season, you get to do something for yourself that you may have never had the opportunity to do before. You get to choose the season for yourself.
The first steps to learning to love the holidays again begin here. Celebrating you in this chapter of your life, begins with answering a few questions. Ask yourself:
What do you really want to do?
What will give you joy this holiday season?
What steps will you take to get there?
That is all you must ask yourself. These answers do not have to be complicated. You are not required to spend a lot of money on them.
Now is your chance to reclaim the holidays.
Shaking off your loneliness and reclaiming the holidays is all about taking care of yourself for a change. This is the year that you can say no to the things from holidays past that you have not enjoyed and that bring you stress, such as traveling, seeing toxic family members, and spending too much money.
This is also the year when you can pick the traditions that you love and throw out the rest. This is the year that you can define what a joyous season means to you and choose to celebrate how you want to celebrate.
And learning to love the holidays again, even if you are divorced, starts with kicking those unrealistic expectations to the curb and ignoring the selective memory that plays tricks on you.
These new few weeks can be the season that you finally recognize that you deserve holiday joy and happiness and you have the power to define that on your own terms. Will you accept that gift?
This article was originally published on