Are you wondering how to cope with divorce during what should be the most joyful time of the year? Here’s help for making the transition to divorce easier
For those contemplating divorce, ‘tis not a season to be jolly. In fact, it can be a very sad, melancholy time.
Making the decision to break up the family is usually one of the toughest decisions anyone will ever make. Often, people have endured rough waters for a very long time.
The new calendar year seems to be a natural point in time to start over anew. If this is your thinking, you are not alone by any means. The first Monday in January is referred to as “Divorce Monday,” and January itself has been dubbed “Divorce Month.”
Assuming these will be your last holidays together, here are some tips for making it a less painful time.
1. Make the best of things this year. Surely, there are things your spouse does or has done in the past, family members who drive you up a wall and family traditions you could do without but knowing that this is the last time you will have to endure these annoyances (or worse), just keep your lip zipped. You don’t need to drive home every little point at this stage of the game. You’ll be moving on soon enough.
2. Don’t go overboard. Try to treat this holiday season the same as you have treated every other. If you go overboard and give too many or overly expensive gifts, it can be extremely confusing to loved ones (especially the kids). Try to stay middle of the road: Honor the relationships you have by giving appropriate gifts but anything too personal or grand will feel disingenuous.
3. Let go of the guilt. If you have tried with everything you have to keep your marriage and your family together, give yourself a break. Guilt may rear its ugly head but do what you can to remember how much you’ve done. I recommend making a list and/or journaling about your situation now so that, in a year or two when you look back, you will remember just how much you tried or how bad things were (we humans tend to minimize pain once we’re out of it).
4. Be clear with your kids and spouse about what’s happening. Given that the holiday time places such an intense emphasis on family, you may feel pressure to spend more time together, go on one last trip together or act like everything is “normal.” Be open about “when mom (or dad) moves out, it will be different… Be sure to let your kids know it’s okay for them to ask you questions about what’s happening and that you’ll do your best to answer them. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. One of the best things to tell your kids to reassure them is, “I don’t know right now but the minute I do, I’ll let you know.” This let’s them know that you’ll do everything in your power to keep them from any unpleasant surprises or changes.
5. Let yourself grieve. You don’t have to pretend you’re not upset if you are. If a wave of sadness hits, allow yourself to feel the feelings and even cry if you need to. Make sure you have adequate support such as a therapist or friends/family you can call when you hit a rough patch. You definitely shouldn’t burden your kids with your intense emotions. They are not equipped to handle adult problems, nor should they have to. There can be a fine line between letting them know how you’re doing (and how much information to divulge) but if you are going to err, err on the side of saying less. If you are upset, just admit you’re upset but you don’t have to tell them why. Just be sure to let them know that you are getting the support you need.
There’s no question that divorce is hard. Not seeing a breakup coming can be devastating but riding out the last days knowing that your family will be changing dramatically is challenging in a very different way—it’s the Band-Aid getting ripped off slowly.
Find good people to support you, good literature to bolster you up and, if need be, good professional resources.
You can get through this.
[Susan Pease Padua]