Your First Christmas after Divorce
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...”
Sounds peaceful, even inviting, but what if this is your first Christmas as newly separated or divorced and the silence in the house feels empty, desolate and lonely? Christmas, like no other annual event, encourages us to celebrate being together. Everywhere we look we are inundated with images of togetherness, big family gatherings, the sharing of food and gifts. Endless images of happiness, perfection and connectedness fill our every waking hour as we venture into this festive time. So what happens when those images don’t fit with your changing circumstances?
Separation is a complicated affair even when it's not! Our brains are hardwired from birth to seek out and maintain closeness to another person. The infant instinctively knows that his/her life depends upon it and we will do almost anything to maintain and create these emotional bonds. Being part of society, being in relationships with others, provides that need for safety and security without which we can feel anxious and scared as in the natural environment the infant would die without the protection, proximity and safety of the primary caregiver.
So when we are faced with divorce it can feel like our world has collapsed and nothing is safe or secure anymore. We can experience a sense of isolation and lose sight of who we are as we move away from being a couple into being a one. We can perceive the world as responding to us differently. One client I worked with told me that she had often felt like an ‘outcast,’ during her divorce, struggling to find a new way of being in the ‘old life.’
And our sense of loss and grief is heightened at this time of year: we imagine that we are the only ones, alone, left out of our gang, helpless and hopeless, and we forget, we are not the only ones. We forget that life as a one can bring about freedom, new beginnings, exploration, excitement, growth and autonomy. Relationships come in many different guises, friends, family, work, activities, ourselves, and endings make way for new beginnings.
It is important to:
1) Acknowledge how you feel as normal responses to the loss of something that was, that isn’t anymore
2) Explore what you like, what you need, indulge and pamper yourself
3) Create the Christmas you never had as a couple and do something different
4) Create a relationship with you as an individual and member of a bigger gang, the gang of life, your life
5) Accept that things will be different and different is ok
6) Make up new rules and traditions, don’t get stuck in ‘the old’, create ‘the new’
7) Be real and realistic with choices and options
8) Seek out help and support, you’re not alone
9) Don’t believe the hype, especially at this time of year
10) Participate in something meaningful that helps you to feel good about yourself
11) Stay connected to all that is good
So, “when all through the house, not a creature is stirring” you can find a way to be ok at this time of year as a one, the ever growing, ever changing, exciting new you.