It’s fall. Time for the celebration of the High Holidays and Thanksgiving. These holidays are about connections: about family and community. About coming together and giving thanks for our many blessings. When you are newly single, the idea of giving thanks on Thanksgiving (or Rosh Hashanah) can be difficult to fathom. The holidays are the locus of many traditions and memories. The images of perfect happy families are everywhere. Expect your first holiday(s) alone to be tough. Here are some pointers on how to get through – and maybe even enjoy- this first holiday, and those to come.
Make sure to celebrate. The break-up is not the end of your life or your family. It is not the end of your happiness. Yes, you may have to change how you celebrate the occasion. But the true meaning of the holiday has not disappeared. This experience, as hard as it is, may bring a fresh perspective and a new understanding. The holidays endure through everything. Because of that fact, they provide stability and consistency. They reassure us that there are some things that will not change.
Don’t beat yourself up. Be patient with yourself and your family. Yes, you will be nostalgic. You’re only human. Sure, you will miss the good old days but, remember; the good old days weren’t always good (to quote Billy Joel). And maybe your new days will be even better. Accept that there may be tears. Take it one holiday, and one day, at a time. Don’t put all of your attention on how things were. Focus on how great things could be and take the necessary steps to get there.
Compromise. Be flexible. Keep the traditions you want, but try new things too. Finding a creative way to celebrate may be the start of a new tradition. Who says Thanksgiving has to be celebrated on the official calendar marked Thanksgiving Day? Choose a different day. It is about being thankful, not about the second Monday in October (hurray for Canada).
Think of your kids. Don’t let your feelings colour the holiday for them. Keep their health and happiness at the forefront of your mind. Although you should never speak ill of your ex in front of the kids, it is particularly important not to do so at holiday time. It may be hard to have to share the holiday with your ex, but try to be civil and flexible when you do. Don’t complain about having to “share” the children for the holidays. Likely they already feel guilty about having to divide their time between you two. Remember – the children have their own feelings of loss to deal with. Be sympathetic to that. Listen. Complaining will just make things worse, and may actually make them resentful. You don’t want to make this the Thanksgiving they’ll never forget for all the wrong reasons. Your kids still need both parents. Make them feel happy and special about having the two of you to celebrate the holiday with.
List what you are thankful for. This may be the hardest of all. It is easy to spend the holidays thinking about how the break-up has changed your and your children’s lives. In the midst of divorce, it’s difficult to appreciate the good things that are still a part of your life. Try to step back and focus on enjoying, celebrating and making the most of what you do have.