Create New Traditions and Reclaim the Holiday After Divorce

The first holiday seasons you spend as a divorced person can be difficult. Expectations steeped in decades of tradition may make you feel like you are the odd man (or woman) out. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Embracing the change that comes with divorce rather than mourning the loss can help you move forward in all aspects of your life and be grateful for what you have — rather than regret what you don’t.

The holidays are the perfect a time to reclaim your independence and set new precedents. Before you stress over enduring old Aunt Ethel’s disapproving remarks about your recent split, or spend the afternoon feeling like a third wheel at your sister’s all-couple Christmas Eve sing-along, consider these strategies to liberate your holiday.

Establish your boundaries. Just because your family always gathers for a pre-lunch game of touch football or stays up all night to hit the Black Friday sales, doesn’t mean you have to go along with all the traditions this year. Let your host know that you’ll just be popping in for dessert, or that you have to leave promptly at a certain time. There’s no need to provide lengthy excuses. Simply set your boundaries to remain within your comfort zone.

Create your own celebration. If your kids are with your ex this year, take the opportunity to do something different. Invite friends and neighbors who (for various reasons) don’t have a ready-made family dinner to attend and create your own biennial tradition.

Plan an easy escape. Feel like taking a pass on the holidays all together? Head to your local movie theater and be among the first to see the holiday’s new releases. Although you might feel awkward attending a movie alone, once the lights dim, no one will be the wiser that you’re flying solo. Treat yourself to popcorn, candy and the works and you won’t miss the cranberry sauce and dressing.

Give to those in need. Shift the focus from your divorce by lending a hand a local food pantry or homeless shelter. Check with Hands On Birmingham, your church, or other local civic organizations for a list of volunteer opportunities.

Change your scenery. Circumnavigate the stress by taking your holiday on the road and head to the beach or the mountains. Or pack up the kids and head to Disney World or New York City for the New Years Eve.

All traditions start somewhere. Why not begin your own this year? This holiday season can be the first of many meaningful times that empower you to revision your life post-divorce.

Feeling Grinchy? Check out these five strategies for avoiding the holiday blues.