The Only Divorce Coping Tool You’ll Need for the Holidays

Woman in the foggy fieldFor many people reading this, this is their first holiday season post-divorce. Getting through the holidays can compound an already stressful life transition. Managing the loss and grief on top of holiday socializing, shopping, and gift giving can be beyond overwhelming.

My marriage ended several years ago right before Thanksgiving, and I clearly remember wondering how I would make it through the end of the year.

I like to think of this time as divorce on steroids because there are so many issues that get heightened at this time of year.

Externally, the social aspects of divorce are magnified with the onslaught of parties and events. Having to talk to people and explain your story takes the fun out of all of it.

Internally, the memories and emotions associated with the holidays multiply. Celebrations bring up the past, and the New Year is about reflection. This can be painful and unwanted.

If your marriage is on the rocks or recently ended, you haven’t had time to ground yourself in your own holiday experience. This may be one year that feels more about survival than celebration.

It may help to reduce self-imposed expectations that this be the “the best one ever” or that you should feel responsible for making it perfect for those around you.

You don’t need to feel guilty or obligated in any way. If you had experienced some other trauma, you would give yourself the break you deserve without question.

As hard as this time will be, there is one crucial coping tool that you can use all through the holidays that will ease your struggle and reduce stress.

The practice of mindfulness is one of the most available and fundamental tools you can use to manage the next few months. Mindfulness is a practice that is always available to you, like your breath.

It has many of the same benefits of gratitude, and it helps in the management of intense emotions or reactions. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, elevate mood, reduce anxiety, and improve overall health. It will help you manage the many triggers that are sure to influence your experience throughout the holiday season.

Mindfulness is the practice of entering into a certain mental state by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is a powerful tool that will help you get out of your looping thoughts, negative self-talk, and distorted fantasies.

By staying in the present moment, you’re living in reality without being pulled to the future or the past.

The practice of mindfulness will also give you the best chance of actually enjoying some of your holiday. You won’t miss out by being lost in your own head or distracted by your thoughts.

Be present with your experience as you shop, decorate, eat, play with your children, and cook.

Here’s a five-step process to get you started:

  1. Notice when you’re lost in your thoughts or when you’re getting upset about something.
  2. Close your eyes and take a deep breath and while bringing your awareness back to the present moment.
  3. Pick one thing to ground yourself, like your position in the chair, your feet on the ground, or your hands on the steering wheel.
  4. Say to yourself, “I’m here in this moment and that’s all there is.”
  5. Then say, “All is fine right now.”

Remember that this is a practice. Some days will be easy and you’ll be extremely mindful. On other days you’ll completely forget and get lost in the chaos.

Most importantly, know you cannot control anyone or anything outside of yourself, and that all you can ever really know with certainty is what’s happening in any present moment.

Give yourself the gift of mindfulness this holiday season. It’s definitely the gift that keeps on giving.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andra Brosh, PhD, BCHN, therapist in Pasadena, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • camille

    camille

    December 17th, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    and avoid your ex as much as possible??

  • Paula

    Paula

    December 17th, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    If you mindfully choose to live in this moment, the here and now, you are destined to be ten times happier than you would be if you only choose to live in the past. Most of the time there is nothing that you can do to change what has happened to you in the past but you are in complete control over what happens to you today and from here on out. Use that to your advantage.

  • andy

    andy

    December 18th, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    What can make things even more awkward are when people you haven’t seen in a while don’t know that the marriage is over and they start asking all about the ex and you have to rehash the story over and over again. it’s times like that that I want to wear a sandwich board that says we are divorced, let’s not talk anymore about it

  • Douglas A

    Douglas A

    December 18th, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    In many divorce situations you see that neither of the exes can get through any of the holiday season without feeling unreasonably bitter toward the other.

    Why am I going to continue to let someone that I have supposedly cut out of my life continue to make it miserable? I left this person behind for a reason, and even if she is the mother of my children, I don’t think that I have to be tied to her forever just because of that.

  • jonathan

    jonathan

    December 18th, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    aaahhh if only it were really as easy as it sounds
    for me I have an ex girlfriend from you know where, we share a child, but who is determined to make every day that I live even more miserable than the last/
    I really do think that she needs some professional help and I am glad that our son lives with me but there are times when we have to interact that it almost feels like I will need a mediator to get through it

  • Dr. Brosh

    Dr. Brosh

    December 18th, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    You all make such good points! The truth is that it’s never easy, and there are so many different scenarios. Most importantly put yourself first, maintain clear boundaries and don’t waste any precious time on your Ex this holiday season.

  • laurel

    laurel

    December 19th, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Thank goodness I haven’t ever had to deal with this because my own parents were divorced when we were little but they never once let on to us kids that they didn’t like still being together. As a matter of fact I am pretty sure that they enjoyed one another’s company far more after they were divorced than they ever could while they were married!

  • SHAY

    SHAY

    December 20th, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    Meditation and mindfulness huh?
    Hmmm I may be giving both of those a try this week!

  • sharon

    sharon

    December 21st, 2014 at 6:37 AM

    This is so timely. The ink is barely dry on my divorce and i have jsut started reading a book on mindfulness. I have been stressing out trying to make Christmas perfect but realise I am falling apart at all the past memories and what you said makes sense and has allowed me to give myself a break. Thank you.

  • Hope

    Hope

    December 21st, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Know what really drives me mad? I often feel like my family takes sides in the whole argument and it never feels quite like they are on mine.
    I hear a lot about the things that I did wrong and to cause the marriage to end, but they were not there, they do not know the pain that I had to live through too.
    I wish that just for once I could have one of them to tell me that they could see things from my side and that they knew that I alone was not to blame for the failure of my marriage.
    I think that if I had that I could be a lot more at peace with what has happened.

  • lena

    lena

    December 23rd, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    My former in laws do nothing to make the whole situation easier. They always make the tug of war just a little more vicious than it has to be, leaving me wonder why I ever got involved with that whole family in the first place.

  • Helen

    Helen

    December 26th, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    I had to become so mindful this holiday season that even running into the new step mom didn’t faze me all that much!

  • Martina

    Martina

    December 27th, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    I say to let your conscience be your guide
    If you know that it is wrong and that you wouldn’t want to let your kids see you do it, then why even take that chance?

  • harry

    harry

    December 28th, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    tHe best thing about this is that you don’t have to have anything but yourself and your willingness to try it in order to make it happen

  • sue

    sue

    January 3rd, 2015 at 1:48 PM

    This Christmas season was hard for me. It’s the first since I was only recently divorce my husband of six years. What’s worse is no one prepared me for the different feelings one experience. Loneliness like not you can ever imagine. Fear, anger, sadness. Every year I would wish for a family of my own but never got it. So this season is always about family and I have none.

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