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Why the holiday season is so difficult during divorce.

By | - December 3, 2019

Steve Benmor is a recognized divorce lawyer, family mediator, arbitrator, speaker, writer and educator. Mr. Benmor has worked as lead counsel in many divorce trials, held many leadership positions in the legal community and has been regularly interviewed on television, radio and in newspapers as an expert in Family Law.

The holiday season is traditionally the time when family gets together. It is a time of bonding, connection and festivity. But when a family is going through a divorce, it hampers the holiday celebration. Rather than focusing on family unity, instead the family is struggling with fear, sadness and dislocation. The holiday season is particularly hard for families in the first year of divorce.  Many questions will be swirling around during that first holiday season after the decision is made to separate.

Should we celebrate together or apart?

Do we buy separate presents?

Who will host the holiday dinner?

Should we just skip any celebration?

These are all very difficult questions with no right or wrong answers.  Here are 5 tips on how to survive the holiday season if you are experiencing a divorce.

#1 Set realistic expectations. Recognize that this year will be different than all past years and all future years. Face up to the fact that this will not be your most joyous holiday season ever, but it is a necessary next step to get to the next chapter of your life.

#2 Encircle yourself with support. Turn to your family and friends. Find one or more family member or friend who will be your support through this holiday season. Maybe even ask them to host the family dinner to take the pressure off of you. Ask them to choreograph the dinner so that it may be shorter than usual with less emphasis on everybody being in the same room at the same time. This could even involve a seating chart at the dining room table that breaks the spouses up and places the children with their cousins or friends.

#3 Begin a personal journal. This is a perfect time to start recording your feelings, your fears and your hopes. Journaling is a tremendous tool used by many people undergoing trauma in their life. It allows you to identify your feelings, feel them, record them, face them and eventually overcome them. It will likely be looked at again, possibly at the next holiday season, as a reminder of where you were then and where you are now. It will be cathartic and pave your road to recovery from this difficult moment.

#4 Focus on the children. If you are too busy making the children’s experience this holiday so amazing, you may be distracted from your feelings of gloom. Plan activities with them that involve other people. Keep them and yourself busy.  Google community events.  Dust off the skates and take the kids skating.  Call up old friends with kids and make plans. Stay busy.

#5 Stay healthy, physically and mentally.  This is the time to really double down on healthy eating, fitness and good sleep. Be very deliberate with your eating. Avoid fatty foods, caffeine and sugars. Look to the Canada Food Guide and aim to eat as healthy as possible. Maintain or begin a regular fitness routine. This could be as simple as a daily walk, 30 minutes on the treadmill or buying a 30 day trial pass a fitness club. If you are having trouble sleeping, speak to your doctor about the possible need for anti-anxiety medication or sleeping pills to assist you in getting the best sleep you can. Make your health a priority.

On a final note, remember the adage “this too will pass“. If you enter into the holiday season with realistic expectations and a plan on how to manage the days, the people, the conversations and your pain, the time will pass.  Moreover, it will facilitate your personal growth and give you the tools on how to manage other difficult moments that will arise in the future. You will survive this difficult time in your life.  You will come out stronger.

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