Coping with a Blue Divorce: Your First Christmas Alone
Whether your divorce was finalized last week or several months ago, it can be difficult to face your first holiday season post-divorce. While the holidays can be a festive time filled with family, loved ones, and Christmas cheer, many Americans struggle to cope with feelings of loss, stress, and depression during the holiday season.
It’s normal to feel sad, lonely, angry, or anything in between after a divorce. Even if you loathed your ex-spouse, grief is a natural emotion to experience—and a feeling that tends to intensify around the holidays. Memories of family traditions or romantic nights by the fire can feel like a dagger to the heart.
Even divorcees who immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers or stay social with friends aren't immune to the pain that many feel during the holiday season. But we can take heart in the fact that there are healthy ways to cope with the lingering sting of divorce around the holidays.
6 Tips to Cope with the First Holiday Season After Divorce
The holidays can be hard to cope with after a divorce. While there is no “magic fix” to erase memories or relieve your grief, there are ways to make the healing process more manageable. Keep reading to learn 6 tips to cope with your first “blue Christmas” after divorce.
#1. Don’t self-isolate.
If you identify as an introvert, you may already know that your go-to instinct in times of crisis is to hibernate or disappear. Whether you don’t want to be a burden to others, don’t have the emotional capacity for socializing, or simply don’t want to talk about the pain you’re feeling, it can be easy to put up walls and tune out the world.
Choosing time alone isn’t always a bad thing. But like most things in life, it’s often good in moderation. Excessively avoiding the outside world can have a negative impact on our mental health and emotional wellbeing, and even lead to worsening depression or anxiety.
As humans, we need connection. In some cases, time outside of our own heads can do us a lot of good. If being social isn’t feasible, consider getting outside more. Various studies show that vitamin D can do wonders for our psychological health and immune systems. At the very least, taking a walk around your neighborhood or park can help you connect with others and clear your mind. Consider taking a break from social media and enjoying the sunshine when you can.
#2. Don’t turn to something else to numb the pain.
Many people, especially those who are grieving, turn to avoidance behaviors to escape or distract themselves from unwanted feelings or intrusive thoughts. While this can be tempting in the moment, keep in mind that delaying feelings and emotions can lead to more pain in the long run.
There are many ways that people attempt to avoid their inner thoughts or silence that annoying, depressing voice inside their heads, such as:
- Substance abuse
- Being overly social
- Binge eating
While some avoidance behaviors aren't inherently bad (what's wrong with spending extra time with friends or hitting the bar on weekends?), they can still be damaging to your health.
Emotions drive our actions. They're also our body's way of signaling us that something important requires our attention. If you routinely drown out emotions with one too many drinks or turn to other people to dull the edges, you may be silencing the things you need to hear to heal.
#3. Celebrate your progress.
While it may not feel like you’ve had any victories lately, you certainly have. Progress can feel insignificant or even invisible sometimes, but rest assured that every day you survive post-divorce is a win.
Don’t discount your small achievements over the last few days, weeks, or months. Getting out of bed after a divorce can take courage. Facing coworkers, in-laws, or social circles takes bravery. Picking yourself up and forging a path forward is no easy endeavor.
What wins, large or small, have you had? Take a moment to self-reflect on your progress and give yourself credit where it’s due—because you deserve it.
#4. Listen to your body.
The simple act of being in tune with our bodies can be immensely helpful in times of hardship or grief. Just as our body can use emotions to signal us, checking in with yourself can help establish boundaries and shed more light on your personal needs.
Your body and brain are hardwired to tell you when something is amiss. From shutting down to losing our train of thought to feeling tense, our bodies are good at letting us know when something is wrong or when it’s time to shift gears.
Maybe you found it comforting to go through old Christmas photos, but after a certain point, the comfort shifts to depression—a sign to put the box back on the shelf and take a mental break. Maybe you find yourself freezing up every time your relative badmouths your ex—a sign to set healthy boundaries and inform them you don’t want to talk about your ex-spouse.
Whatever the situation, listening to our bodies can help us make well-informed decisions to obtain whatever we’re needing in the moment.
#5. Find the silver linings (if you want).
The phrase “positive thinking” has a tendency to make people cheer up…or cringe. It can be hard to receive the same recurring advice, whether it’s, “Just look on the bright side!” or “At least you have [fill in the blank],” or, “Everything happens for a reason!”
Even well-intentioned friends and family members can sometimes do more harm than good when telling you how you’re supposed to feel or think. The truth is that “positive thinking” can be ineffective because it operates on a surface level.
No person has total control over their subconscious. Moreover, the pressure to be a positive thinker can set us up for disappointment. Expecting the best and receiving the worst, especially on a recurring basis, can be harrowing.
In some cases, positive thinking is…well, impossible. Maybe we can't snap our fingers to transform darkness into fluffy clouds or rainbows, but we can identify silver linings when we need to. There’s no need to pigeonhole your mind into a “positive vibes only” mentality, but you can recognize and accept silver linings naturally as they arise or when they’re helpful to you.
#6. Internalize the belief that things will get easier.
It’s okay to admit that things suck right now. It’s okay to accept your grief for what it is and navigate the road to healing at your own pace. It’s okay to admit that you’re not doing well; maybe you’re the opposite of well. Regardless of this, it’s important to look ahead and tell yourself that things will get better in time.
This doesn’t mean you have to dismiss whatever feelings you have in the moment—it just means that your sights are ultimately fixed on a better tomorrow. It means you can take hope in the future. It means you have something to look forward to.
Even in your darkest moments, it’s essential to remind yourself that each and every day, it’ll be easier and easier to take that next step. One day, you’ll look back and feel awestruck that you’ve made it this far.
Reliable Representation for Families in Queen Anne's County
Our firm understands how emotionally draining it can be to navigate family disputes in court. Going through a divorce is more than the end of a marriage; it’s the end of an entire season. While looking ahead to a brighter future can be comforting, it doesn’t erase the exhaustion and trauma of ending things with someone you once thought you’d love forever.
That’s why Matthew Penick Law is devoted to serving families in need by providing reliable, compassionate legal representation during life’s toughest seasons. With over a decade of legal experience, our team possesses the knowledge and experience to wisely guide your next steps.
We believe in providing personalized attention and innovative legal solutions tailored to each client’s unique needs. If you’re preparing for a divorce, it’s imperative to have the right legal team in your corner. Put your trust in a skilled divorce attorney with a proven track record of success.
Filing for divorce? You don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. Our firm is here to help you protect what matters most. Call (410) 618-0863 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.