If this is your first Holiday Season after a divorce or the death of a spouse, rather than joy and excitement, you may be filled with sadness and trepidation. With every Christmas Carol or Jewelry Commercial you suddenly find you are rolling your eyes and then a second later, sobbing uncontrollably! You are shocked that you can vacillate between cynical and sentimental in a nano-second! Like the hurried holiday shoppers themselves, your emotions are pushing and shoving and rushing around slamming up against each other.

    “Hey!” you shout at yourself, “I thought I was getting through all this stuff!”

    RELAX. It is normal to feel things more intensely at the holidays. The infinite supply of cheese balls, chocolates, carols and cards only serve to ratchet up the nostalgia meter as a lifetime of both good and bad memories wash over you.

    While emotions are often unpredictable and we can’t help what we feel, here are some thoughts to consider that can make the holidays a little less painful and hopefully even a bit enjoyable!

  •  Accept that no matter what you do, you cannot make up for the loss. Trying to keep things EXACTLY THE SAME only emphasizes that nothing is the same.
  •  Let go of traditions that no longer work for you. This is an opportunity to re-invent your holidays. Keep the traditions that you enjoy and get rid of the ones that you don’t. No one expects you to be on your best behavior during this time, so you can probably pull it off without anyone getting offended.
  •  Stick to your regular routine as closely as possible. Sleep, exercise, eat well and don’t skip those therapy appointments.
  •  Don’t use money, alcohol, food, or sex to deal with pain and sadness. These indulgences will just leave you poor, hung over, fat, and guilty on December 26th.
  •  Don’t be afraid to do something different. Go away or stay home, but take a risk to use the holidays to try something different.
  •  Keep mindful to avoid unrealistic expectations. Expectations are often the fuel that feeds that “let down” feeling. Instead of focusing on what isn’t, focus on what is and what can be.
  •  Don’t make New Year’s resolutions. We rarely keep them. Then we feel like failures and beat ourselves up over it! Instead, ask yourself “What have I learned this year about myself and about life?” Then, if you feel really ambitious, focus on how you can use that information to enhance the coming year.
  •  Keep your perspective. A year from now, when you will look back on this holiday season, you will be amazed at how far you’ve come.

     You have control over how you choose to spend your days. This includes holidays. What do you want to do with this day? If your children are old enough, discuss new ideas and options with them, keeping in mind that while their input is valuable, you are the parent and ultimately will choose what feels healthy and right for all of you.

*Through the holiday season this blog with be updated frequently. Check back for new entries weekly. Next week: Helping your Children Deal with Loss during the Holidays.

Please feel free to share your comments and ideas!




  1. Stacy on the 28. Nov, 2010 remarked #

    What a great post Donna – thanks! My issue this year is not my own divorce, but the divorce of my parents (after 35 yrs of marriage). Having to divide up the holidays between the both of them has been difficult. My husband and I decided to invite my Dad to Thanksgiving and my Mom and her boyfriend to Christmas Eve (we spend Christmas Day with my husband’s family). I had a great amount of guilt and worry over what my Dad would do on Christmas Eve and how he would handle being “left out”. In fact, I’m still feeling it as Christmas approaches, but I’m trying hard to focus on the fact that my father is an adult and I do not need to “take care” of him. The annoying thing is that after all the work to put dinner together for Thanksgiving, my Dad left early without saying good-bye to the kids or my husband AND while he was here, he was not really present with us or the kids. Our children will be little for such a short time and instead of worrying about who might have hurt feelings, I am going to do my best to surround my family with those that want to share the magic of the season with us.

    • admin on the 28. Nov, 2010 remarked #

      Thanks Stacy for bringing this important perspective to the conversation!

  2. Michelle on the 29. Nov, 2010 remarked #

    Thank you for this post. My divorce was final in August and I’m still dealing with a few emotional issues, although therapy is helping. My wedding anniversary would have been this past weekend. Thanksgiving will be a reminder for a long time, I think. Your thoughts were very timely, to say the least – especially the need to keep perspective and keep a routine.
    Here’s to all of us having a healthy, happy year to come!

  3. CJ Golden on the 30. Nov, 2010 remarked #

    As always, Donna, your words are so timely, caring and “right on”!

  4. Benton Tucek on the 07. Jan, 2011 remarked #

    Thanks for this post. I agree with what you are saying. I have been talking about this subject a lot lately with my father so most probably this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!

  5. Myron Kutscher on the 10. Jan, 2011 remarked #

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  6. wedding party on the 21. Jan, 2011 remarked #

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