by Joy Cipoletti

 

The period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day in Western culture (the “holidays”) is tough for anyone going through divorce. The whole family experiences tremendous upheaval experienced in life after divorce which turns traditional holiday plans on end, especially if there are children involved.

One parent will usually have custody for a holiday such as Thanksgiving while the other will be left alone. If holiday celebrations generally involved time with one side of the family, or the former couple hosted the holiday festivities, the divorced couple may feel lost or neglected during the season that emphasizes family.

While some pain is likely, especially in the first year or two after divorce, try one or more of these 6 ways to minimize the suffering and find some joy.

Plan ahead. Planning is important in all circumstances, but is especially important if you are the parent without your children for a holiday like Christmas or Hanukkah. With minor children, your parenting plan will spell out which parent has the children for which holidays, so you will be able to make advance plans. Don’t sit home alone feeling sorry for yourself. Invite others to join you for a meal; accept invitations from family and friends; go to the movies; do something that gets you out of the house and out of your sorrow, at least for part of the day. If you are the parent with the children, recognize that they will be missing the other parent and the familiar family traditions. Provide an opportunity for a phone call, if appropriate, and keep some familiar activities in the day.

Prepare for unexpected reminders. Don’t be caught off guard when unpacking boxes of holiday decorations for the first time after divorce. An ornament from “Our First Christmas” or champagne glasses from the first shared New Year’s Eve can cause unexpected pangs of grief or regret. Knowing this in advance can help, as can having a friend or relative join you in unpacking and decorating.

Start a new tradition. If there are kids who will be with you for the holiday, don’t feel like you have to plan everything yourself. If your children are old enough, ask them what they’d like to do and involve them in the planning. You might be surprised at their ideas, and you may start a new tradition that fits your post-divorce family better than the old ones did. If you like crafts, make your holiday gifts; instead of buying gifts, take a family trip; if you don’t have much money, cook a holiday meal together and play games; cut out a construction paper turkey and feather, then have each family member write something they’re grateful for on the feathers and decorate the turkey.

Keep up an old tradition, with a twist. If there is a family tradition that means a lot, make it work for your new circumstances. For example, if you used to cut down your own Christmas tree, maybe instead you and the kids pick out a tree from a lot and then go sledding and come home to hot chocolate and marshmallows. If your former spouse was the holiday cook, buy a prepared meal (many grocery stores and restaurants offer this wonderful service) or simplify the menu and try cooking as a family.

Do something for yourself. If you’re on your own for the first time, take the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do: go sledding or tubing; get snowshoes and take a winter hike; go Christmas caroling; get up early and shop the bargains on Black Friday; go to a candlelight service or the Nutcracker ballet; have a party; house sit for a friend’s dog; stay home on New Year’s Eve and go to bed before midnight. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Help someone else. Clichéd yes, but still the best remedy for loneliness and self-pity. Divorce can be devastating, but it’s not the only tragedy to befall individuals or families. Reach outside yourself, and you’ll find no end of opportunities to help. Besides the usual holiday volunteer activities (soup kitchen, food or gifts for the poor), look nearby. Invite a lonely or grieving neighbor or co-worker for a meal. Volunteer to hold babies at the hospital or walk dogs at the local animal shelter. Babysit for a parent whose spouse is deployed, or send care packages overseas. The gift you receive is likely to be greater than what you give – putting the pain of divorce in perspective so you can survive and even heal during the holidays.
A divorced mom of three teenage kids, Joy Cipoletti is the author of The Breadwinner Mom’s Guide to Making Peace with Divorce, a resource for divorced moms and moms considering divorce. She regularly shares her experience, lessons learned, ongoing struggles and successes as a divorced breadwinner mom in the hopes of offering strength and hope to others in similar circumstances through her Divorced Breadwinner Mom blog which can be found at http://www.TheDivorcedBreadwinnerMom.com.

Visit the blog site at http://www.TheDivorcedBreadwinnerMom.com to receive a free copy of The Divorced Breadwinner Mom’s Guide to Making Peace with Divorce as well as regular tips and resources to help divorced breadwinner moms connect with their spiritual selves so they feel supported and fulfilled – even excited – in this new phase of their lives.

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About the Author:

Joy-Cipoletti_993906Joy Cipoletti is the divorced mother of three teenagers and the breadwinner for the family. She and her kids live in Colorado where she provides freelance writing and consulting services and blogs on her life as a divorced breadwinner mom.

The oldest of eight children, Joy was raised in a traditional family with a breadwinner dad and a stay-at-home mom. Her parents have been happily married for over 50 years. Joy’s own marriage lasted 20 years; she never expected to find herself divorced, self-employed, and a breadwinner mom, but today she is all three.

Through her blog she shares her experience, lessons learned, ongoing struggles and triumphs as a divorced breadwinner mom in the hopes of offering strength and hope to others in similar circumstances. She is in the process of developing resources and services to support other breadwinner moms in their divorce recovery and to the new life that awaits.