Handling the Holidays


Prepare. The ambush of emotions can attack at any time, prepare beforehand. Review the calendar and pinpoint the days or events that could trigger melancholy.

Accept the difficulty of this time of year and your loss. Remind yourself that it’s a season and it will pass. Next year will be easier.

Discern when the loss of the spouse will be most evident. For example: their vacant spot at the dinner table, a traditional Christmas morning breakfast, or a favorite song. Don’t wait or deny the feelings.

Socialize. Don’t hibernate. For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have a plan. Do not wait until the day before to decide. Insecure feelings may attack and tempt you to isolate yourself, force yourself to go anyway even if it’s only for a short time.

Lower your expectations. Movies and songs paint a very unrealistic picture of the family at Christmas. Your family probably doesn’t resemble a Norman Rockwell painting but then neither does mine.

Understand that those who have not experienced loss yet will not comprehend your grief. Friends and family may push a “just get over it” attitude thinking it’s helpful. They do not realize that you are mourning the death of your dreams and marriage.

Delegate Do not over commit. A frenzied mood will increase your stress. It’s all right to say no! Repeat after me, “I’m sorry but I’m not able to do that this year.”

Don’t Anesthetize the pain with drugs or alcohol. Numbing emotional distress with chemicals creates more depression and leads to a greater sense of isolation. Divorce can formulate a vulnerable atmosphere and these chemicals make it worse.

Money. Put a holiday budget on paper. Evaluate how much money is available for gifts and then do not emotionally overspend. If this is an area of weakness for you or guilt is motivating your purchases then use cash instead of credit cards. Therefore when the dough is gone, it’s over!!

Guilt can induce overspending. Your kids don’t need presents they need a stable parent.

Memories. Let go of the memories and traditions you shared together. Don’t pull out old pictures. Dwelling on past holidays can fuel despair.

Trimming. If old ornaments or trimmings cause too much pain don’t hang them this year. Put them aside for another time.

Ask friends to help with the tree and other items if you need it. They might not think of it on their own.

Get Up and Move. Take care of your physical well-being. During a divorce many people either stop eating or they over indulge. Healthy foods will give you strength; fattening and sugar filled foods can worsen your depression. In addition exercise produces natural stress reducers.

Fancy Occassions can cause tremendous stress from what to wear to attending alone when others are in couples. Ask if you can bring a friend if that helps. And plan your outfit ahead of time. Borrow a dress if you have to or visit a consignment store.

Shop Online if going to the mall is too stressful.

Tell Family Members of the practical items that you really need this year. Don’t assume they will automatically know.

Deppression is normal. If you are in a deep depression, and thoughts of suicide are intense seek help immediately. Do not minimize the effect holidays can have on your mental state.

Coping Strategy. Have the phone number of your counselor, pastor, church, close friend or hotline already taped to your phone. Make the commitment to call someone when those thoughts get fierce. Have a coping strategy prepared. Review who to call, or a place to go if the stress or pain gets too severe. Ask for help!

Light. Get some sunshine. Winter can take its toll on our emotions by the loss of sun we experience. If you work in an atmosphere with few windows make sure to take a walk on your lunch or break.

Positive Steps

Write an “I’m Thankful” list. Right now it may seem difficult to find anything to be thankful for, but begin with things that we take for granted such as health, family, job, car, friends, etc.

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Invite a new same sex friend to see a movie, have dinner, or help decorate the house.

Create new traditions. Investigate unique ways to make the season meaningful. This could include a slumber party, hand made decorations or gifts, a musical or theatrical event, visiting a nursing home, or any act of charity. Videotape grandma or grandpa telling stories of their youth.

Review the visitation schedule with your ex-spouse and the children at least one week in advance. This will alleviate any surprises and helps relieve any fears the children may be experiencing.

Allow your children to grieve. Their whole world has changed and the holidays are heartbreaking for them too. Don’t ignore their pain or buy gifts to ease the anguish. Kids translate love into one word T-I-M-E. They need you to listen.

Relieve Tention by communicating with your family members who may be grieving the loss of the kids or traditions. Divorce has rocked their world too.

Set Boundaries. Clearly and precisely explain to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year, and what you aren’t. Don’t let others guilt you into taking on more than you can handle. Say NO!!

Help the children buy a small, inexpensive gift for your ex spouse and ex in-laws. This communicates your permission for them to love the other family and eases the tension in their minds. I know? it’s a hard one.

Reach others by discovering people that might be alone during the holidays. Suggestions: an exchange student, someone who’s estranged from family, those who live away from family, a elderly person, a single parent, homeless shelters.

Connect with a support group. Many times they have fun activities planned for the holidays. www.divorcecare.org

Be creative. Do something completely different this year. Visit a friend, take a cruise, go to the mountains or the beach, go skiing or hiking. The list is endless.

Treat yourself to cozy bed linens in a magnificent color or a luxurious bath. A new pillow can work wonders for neck tension.

Call an old same sex friend. Sometimes it helps to rekindle the relationships that faded during our marriage.

Stress Fighting Tips: a walk on a still winter night, stroll through a greenhouse or flower shop, a massage, brush your hair, a soothing vanilla candle, a cozy cotton nightgown (Karen Neuburger is my personal favorite), neck exercises, a manicure or pedicure, a warm drink such as herb tea, a funny book, show or movie (ex: the Johnny Carson collection), stretching, draw or sculpture, get out the hammer and build something, finish the basement, faux paint, pull out an old train set, read words of hope.

Sit near a nativity scene and ponder the life of each figure. Put yourself into the sandals of a person present that night. Can you hear Mary’s cry of labor as she delivers? Do you observe the sweat on Joseph’s brow as he helps her?  Might you squint in beholding the brilliance of the star? Then lift the Holy Child out of the manger and recognize the Lover of Your Soul. Look at him really look at him. He alone teaches how to embrace the truth of Christmas. He was born to earth for one reason?to die. He came to sacrifice himself for one reason?YOU. He left heaven because YOU were worth it. His love for YOU is that intense, that passionate, and that perfect. Drink it in my friend; this is where peace for your weary soul is found.

Gold represents that He is a King, the Frankincense represents He is God. But the Myrrh tells His purpose. He left heaven for me?and you. That’s how much he loves us. One Reason. You are worth saving. You are the Beloved. You are worth the price He had to pay to adopt you. You have value.

Chas Spurgeon writes in Morning and Evening,”If I can bring Him nothing but my tears, He will put them with His own tears in His own bottle for He once wept; if I can bring Him nothing but my groans and sighs, He will accept these as an acceptable sacrifice, for He once was broken in heart, and sighed heavily in spirit. I myself, standing in Him am accepted in the Beloved…He is content and I am blessed.”

Tears and sighs, if surrendered to Him, are precious gifts at the foot of the cross. And they are as magnificent and majestic as the Magi’s gifts 2,000 years ago. Oh! What a Beautiful Baby!

His adorable toes. Can you imagine being Mary and kissing those chubby pink feet? And then 33 years later seeing them bruised, battered and bleeding with a spike threw them.

The blood is because you were worth it…Because that’s how far love reaches when it’s pure and undefiled. Because God’s arm and feet are never too far away from those who call to Him.

Share and pour this Love?this unique, relentless, zealous love of Jesus?over their wounded hearts and they will find peace. Heavenly peace.

Copyright © 2006 Laura Petherbridge, Used with permission.

Read more from Laura at www.Laurapetherbridge.com

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About Laura Petherbridge

bio-petherbridgeLaura Petherbridge serves couples and single adults with topics on spiritual growth, relationships, stepfamilies, co-parenting, single parenting, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is an international speaker and author of four books including, When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, and The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with stepfamily expert Ron Deal and endorsed by Gary Chapman (Five Love Languages), 101Tips for The Smart Stepmom—Expert Advice from One Stepmom to Another and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul-a devotional. Read more at  TheSmartStepmom.com and laurapetherbridge.com. See Laura's Books



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