The First (Divorced) Thanksgiving: How to Handle the Holidays After Divorce
So, you are finally divorced and feeling some relief – then comes the dreaded holiday season. Ugh! Images of everyone spending time with their families and significant others flood your brain and suddenly the feeling of loneliness is overwhelming and unbearable. It’s your first holiday alone after divorce, and you find yourself thinking, maybe I can just hibernate for the next month or two – disappear and come back once the holidays are over? But from my understanding, no one has figured out a way to pull off a disappearing act from the Thanksgiving table without triggering a search party. So, let’s face it – while you cannot skip the holidays (and yes, your first Thanksgiving will feel challenging) – you can change your mindset and have an enjoyable experience.
These four tips got me through my first post-divorce Thanksgiving, and will help you handle the holidays after divorce.
After a divorce, we tend to spend so much time focusing on all of the things we have lost. The extended family we may not see anymore, the traditions we shared with our spouse, and how alone we feel. On my first Thanksgiving, I pushed these feelings aside to focus on expressing gratitude for the things I had gained.
For one thing, I had survived my divorce. It was over. I gave myself a moment to recognize the strength it took to get through my divorce and the gratitude I felt that I could now see it in my rearview. I also took stock of the people in my life. These people had cared for me while I was in pain, seen me at my worst and they were still here – for that I was deeply grateful.
Force yourself to identify the things that you are grateful to have in your life. Give yourself a moment to recognize how far you have come. Look around you and notice the people who are surrounding you with love and friendship. Be in the moment and make a new memory with them. Taking time for gratitude is soul nurturing and healing.
Create New Traditions
It is important to create new holiday traditions after divorce. On my first post-divorce Thanksgiving I broke the mold and invited my parents to leave chilly New England and travel to a warmer climate with me. And guess what?
We had a great time. Remind yourself that your changing family dynamic is an opportunity to create new traditions you enjoy. But don’t shy away from maintaining some of the traditions you shared with your spouse if you want to keep them; consistency can feel good during a time of intense change.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Even with these strategies in hand, I could not pretend my first Thanksgiving was pain-free — you shouldn’t pressure yourself to pretend either. Instead, be honest with yourself and acknowledge your feelings. They are real and you are allowed to have them. Just don’t let them become your focus. Once you have acknowledged them, shift your internal dialogue and put your energy into noticing the positive things in your life.
EAT, EAT, EAT!
The divorce diet is a real thing. When I was going through my divorce, eating was the last thing on my mind and when I did eat I found myself thinking how bland and disgusting everything tasted. Chewing just seemed like too much work. But if Thanksgiving doesn’t tempt you, what will? It is time to unleash your inner hunger gremlin, guilt-free! So, don’t think twice about going back for seconds — JUST DO IT! Trust me, your body and brain will thank you. They have been depleted for a while and need this overindulgence.
If you need a little help focusing your energy and thoughts on gratitude this Thanksgiving, try placing your hand on a physical surface in front of you, notice the feeling of that surface against your skin to help bring you back into the moment, then repeat this phrase to yourself — “I am grateful for the inner strength that brought me to today and the opportunity I have to create a positive future.”