Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all of the holiday season seen through the eyes of a child is a magical time. After all, we hear that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” from a very young age. It’s as we age that we begin to realize just how hard the holidays are for so many people. The losses people have suffered, both throughout that year and during their lifetime, divorce, cancer and other major illness diagnoses in their family and friends lives, job losses, miscarriages, and so many defining moments that seem to come to a head during the six week winter holiday season. Holidays are centering moments in our lives, full of memories – the Thanksgiving where the turkey was inedible, the year the kids opened all of the Christmas presents before you and your ex woke up, Grandma Irene’s prized pumpkin pie – all memories that for better or for worse make the holidays an especially easy time to feel an absence. The absence of a loved one, a marriage, the family you once had, or maybe the family you imagined, you get the idea. Additionally, the stress of the holiday season is only made worse when you are grieving these losses. Something small may trigger your heartache like a Christmas card addressed to both you and your ex-spouse, or perhaps being the only singleton at the Thanksgiving dinner table. It’s all too easy to feel like we are all alone in holiday sadness, after all, look at all those smiling faces on the Christmas cards and on social media posts. It’s important to remember that those are just that – snapshots, and not reality. Behind many of those smiling faces also lie someone that is grieving in one way or another. It’s not easy to navigate the holiday season, but use gatherings of friends and family to serve as reminders that you are not alone. Allow for these occasions to provide an opportunity to take a break from the grief you are feeling from your divorce. It may offer you hope that holidays after divorce are bearable, and, maybe not today, but will one day even be enjoyable.
The holiday season is upon us with all of its beauty, tradition and unreal expectations. It can be a stressful time for even the most grounded person. For someone newly divorced and still sorting out their new life, the challenges that the holiday season imposes can add a whole new level of stress if one doesn’t meet those challenges head on. It’s the financial impact of the holidays that we want to address today. Buying presents, decorating and entertaining can put a big hole in your budget if you are not careful. It can turn out to be a holiday hangover that lasts until summer. Meet the holiday spending challenge head on by getting a grasp on how much you can reasonably spend above and beyond your normal day-to-day spending. Follow that up with a holiday spending worksheet listing all the added expenses, including presents, cards, decorations, groceries, clothing, charitable donations, travel and dining out. Divide up your holiday spending dollars amongst the items on your list. Now, prioritize your spending by putting the most important holiday items at the top of your spending list. Focus on purchasing the high priority items first. If high priority items, like presents or travel expenses, end up costing more than you budgeted, you will need to cut back on the low priority items. When it comes to presents, the holidays call for cooperation rather than competition. Trying to outdo your ex-spouse, particularly with the presents, is only going to add to the holiday stress. Share with your ex-spouse what you intend to buy and the things you know your child wants. Since it is likely that your child is going to celebrate Christmas twice, each spouse might want to agree to buy smaller items. If your child just has to have a really expensive item, considers splitting the cost. This is your opportunity to make new traditions. Look for ways to celebrate the holidays that focus on togetherness rather spending. Making cookies and homemade decorations, or helping out a charity, can all be done for minimal cost while instilling what the spirit of the season is really about. Avoid the holiday blues by approaching them with the right attitude. Look on the bright side, now is your chance to get rid of those awful holiday traditions of your ex-spouse. Here is your chance to start new traditions that truly reflect what you value and what you want your family to remember for years to come.