JUST US: Holidays After Divorce (It Can Be Ok!)


Regardless of your marital status, the holidays can be a very stressful time. Despite all the cheerful festivities, it’s something that people begin to worry about the day after Halloween. With all the shopping and traveling, the holidays require a lot of planning. It’s like you build this whole idea in your head of what’s going to go wrong and what’s going to go right.

Man plans and God laughs so it doesn’t ever really work out the way you expect, but sometimes it’s better.

We work ourselves up so much, but it’s never as bad as we’ve created it to be in our heads. Stress is a self-fulfilling prophecy. What happens is you end up building so much anxiety and fear over a certain scenario that you manifest it. When you’re going through a divorce, the stress is multiplied by 10, especially if you have kids.

If you’re divorced and have children, the times without them can feel lonely. 

When you have them with you for the holidays it’s great but, when you don’t it can feel like you’re missing something. For Jessica, the worst part of holidays is when she doesn’t have her kids and then she’s just alone. One of her biggest weaknesses is not being able to ask for help. It’s difficult for her to call people and say I’m alone tonight, do you have a seat at the table? If it is a holiday and you don’t have your kids around, it can be very lonely. Do yourself a favor – take a deep breath and call a friend to ask if you can join.

The holidays can be lonely even if you don’t have kids at all. 

After divorce, you can find yourself riding solo for the holidays. It can be hard, but the key is to try to plan as far in advance as you can so that you have something already planned that you can do. In this situation, Jessica will just invite herself to T.H.’s, that is if T.H hasn’t invited her already. For anybody who’s a friend, or family member of someone going through divorce, extend an invitation to them and let them know there’s a place at your table. Remind them when the event is coming up and call them and say: “I meant what I said. Come over to my home.” If you know that being alone is not good for you, reach out to your friends. If you know they’re having people at their home, they’re not going to say no to you joining. If they do, then they’re not really your friend, to be honest. 

When you are going through a separation or a divorce, you need to try to maintain contact with your friends and to go out with them. People are busy with their own lives. They may care about you, and they may love you, but if you are never the one reaching out, then that will be reflected over time in your relationship. You need to make an earnest effort to stay in touch with the people that are your friends so that when push comes to shove, and you need them for a holiday, or a time where you’re feeling lonely, you do have people to reach out to.

Be brave. If you have an amicable relationship with your ex, reach out. 

Jessica’s first several holidays alone weren’t really alone. Her parents didn’t live close by, they were back and forth between Jersey and Florida, and so she would spend it with her ex, their kids, and his family. Part of it was because it gave her the excuse to be with her kids on a holiday that she wouldn’t have had them for. But she’s always felt that it has benefited her kids to see her and her ex able to be together during the holidays. Whether you have kids or not, and you have an amicable relationship with your ex, there’s nothing wrong with asking what they’re doing for the holiday because they may be in the same boat as you. And if you get along well enough, that may be a nice way to spend the holiday. 

T.H. ‘s ex wasn’t really at many holidays for the last several years of their marriage, so she was accustomed to being a lone soldier with her three kids and taking them to Florida to visit her parents. One of the years T.H. spent Thanksgiving alone was when she was dating someone, but just didn’t really want to go spend the holiday with his family – he had invited her, but she preferred to be alone. It was hard. But she set up a movie plan. She also had a book on the side, and a full bottle of wine. Spending big family holidays alone can really suck. She had a few other options that night but none were local, and they weren’t of interest to her. So, she decided to be alone because she knew that she didn’t want to be in any other environment. She didn’t want people asking her questions. And her movie lineup was totally tearful. It was the perfect reason for a pity party. She’s thankful that she can have a day where no one’s bothering her and she can watch Beaches, Terms of Endearment, and Lucky, all in a row.

The holidays alone are hard, but it won’t be so hard if you do what is good for you.

You can’t go wrong with a night alone. Now with an endless array of streaming services, there are so many different forms of entertainment. From podcasts to concerts to zoom events to TV shows, you can keep yourself occupied without leaving your house. You could do anything. You could even get some holiday shopping done. 

The upside of divorce with kids, you can have half the time off. 

Look, holidays can be lonely, but it’s important to make the most of it no matter what the situation. Just because it is a holiday, if you don’t want to have to celebrate it in a certain way, take advantage of being on your own. Go get a massage the night before, get your nails done, or go shopping. If you want to cook, then cook all night long – or order in! Blast the music in the house. Make the holiday whatever you want it to be.

If you want to have an actual plan, do so enough in advance. 

T.H. and Jessica knew that their first year New Year’s Eve after splitting with their exes they were both going to be alone. They decided very early on that regardless of their dating situation, they were going to spend it together. They were not going to leave each other alone on New Year’s Eve. They booked a reservation at a random restaurant neither of them had been to before, but it sounded like it might be fun. They got dressed up and they went out, even though they knew they would most likely be disappointed. Turns out, it was totally not their crowd, but they didn’t even care. They just wanted to be out. Regardless, in Jessica’s opinion, New Year’s Eve is always so anticlimactic in the end. It’s over-dramatized and it’s never as fun as you think it’s going to be. They just wanted to be able to say they went out on New Year’s Eve, and they weren’t just sitting at home feeling sorry for themselves. And then the next day T.H. was so hung-over that she felt sorry for herself anyway. 

Like anything else, society makes such a bigger deal out of things than they need to be. 

You be what you want to be. You do what you want to do. Book a trip if you have the money. Or take a drive somewhere. There are just so many options for what to do. Go to a museum. Go to the movies. Take advantage of less crowded places that are usually overcrowded. 

When it comes to the holidays, you have to pick your battles. 

Generally, if you are in a situation where you have kids, you have worked out, to some degree, in your custody arrangement how you’re dividing up the holidays. Jessica stresses the importance of being honest with yourself about holidays that matter to you and holidays that don’t matter to you. Pick your battles and don’t go balls to the wall over something that isn’t as important to you. It’s just not worth having a fight over it. Better to get the holidays that are the most meaningful to you and let your ex have others that aren’t as important for you.

If you have children, and you don’t have them for a certain holiday, don’t make them feel bad about it. Don’t let them worry about you. Reassure them that you’ll be okay, and you’ll be there for them when they get home. You have to have a tough upper lip and just have that conversation. Then you can go cry after. Or you can cry before. Or you could scream all day long when you don’t have them, but you have to let them know you’ll be fine. Don’t let your kids feel bad for you and don’t make it any worse for them. They deserve to be able to spend holidays with your ex and enjoy themselves, just like you want them to be able to do with you on your holidays with them. 

Simplify the season by doing what’s best for you. 

Whether that’s reaching out to a friend or staying home alone, listen to what you need and be secure with your choice. Remember to pick your battles when it comes to holidays with the kids and let your kids know that there are no problems. The holidays are all about spreading some positivity so make sure you give some to yourself. Enjoy your holidays. And check out exEXPERTS if you ever need tips for getting through things because T.H. and Jess are always offering up their words of wisdom – don’t forget, they’ve been there, so they get it!

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