Tips to thrive through your first Christmas alone
I have always loved Christmas, not just for the mince pies, mulled wine or those corny Christmas movies and songs. Though I am usually described as Pollyannish, I feel the lockdown fatigue and find it harder to connect with my usual holiday cheer. Hence, I am consciously breaking the cognitive triangle by creating a safe and joyful pandemic Christmas and you can do that too.
Christmas has always been a busy time of year in the family law world. Many people are struggling through separation and divorce this year after the prolonged social isolation. First with the social unrest and the pandemic, make Christmas this year heart-wrenchingly painful and lonely for many divorcing families, especially when so few of us can travel and connect with loved one.
What makes Christmas difficult to endure is its focus on celebrating relationships, holiday traditions, happy memories created over the years and the constant messages about being loved-up at Christmas from Hollywood and social media.
Many newly separated parents, especially those without their children during Christmas, struggle to feel upbeat with the daily news of the pandemic, climate emergency, and economic crisis. As it becomes harder to connect with others physically, maybe this could be a great opportunity to reconnect with and be kind to ourselves.
“The Christmas holidays have this high value: that they remind forgetters or the forgotten, & repair damaged relationships” Mark Twain
Maybe we can create our own Christmas miracle this year by keeping the Christmas tradition—with a twist? We can connect both with people we love and our true selves. Perhaps it is time to let go of things, toxic relationships, and feelings that no longer serve you and embrace your flaws, so you are ready for a better future?
I don’t have a magic wand, but I know from experience that one’s self-worth is very often on the line after a separation. Instead of feeling lonely through the first holiday, a healthy dose of humour, compassion, and support can bring us closer to our true selves and help us focus on the bigger picture of who we are, rather than just being a partner or parent.
You don’t need to be Saint Nicholas to experience the joy of giving. Beyond actual gift-giving, the simple act of taking care of yourself may be the most wonderful gift you can give to yourself and your children in 2021.
My advice for many clients is to focus on self-care before any therapeutic work can begin. Getting enough good quality sleep, venturing into nature for some fresh air, enjoying good food and connecting with loved ones who are kind to them are all steps in the right direction for self-love. Tough love has its place, but not when you are feeling vulnerable. Being kind to yourself is also about learning to recognize negative thoughts that prevent you from enjoying life.
If you are resentful and angry, it is harder to move on. Monitor who your sounding board is—if your friends agree 100% with your perception, they will not be able to give you fresh perspectives.
They might even keep you stuck in the anger stage of grief.
Also, be mindful of negative self-talk that may be causing more distress and stopping you from responding with courage and poise.
Thoughts change the way we feel, and the way we feel changes the way we respond. To get unstuck, you can use a journal to help you track your thoughts and feelings or get a professional to guide and challenge you along this often less-travelled journey.
Instead of setting a goal to lost those pandemic weight gain, why not make developing a resilience mindset and committing to a personal growth post-separation during a pandemic your goal for 2021? Develop flexible and tough mental armor by being open to change and the ability to monitor your thoughts and feelings.
Christmas isn’t just about travelling and gifts. It is also about sharing with people you love. A thoughtful gift does not need to be expensive, and mindful giving helps you focus on connecting with another person.
The joy they will receive from a simple gift like a card, an act of service, a cooked meal together, or a care package can connect you with others in more ways than you can imagine.
So reach out to those who might be lonely. Take the opportunity to chat with someone at the local shop or café. Most people appreciate some small talk or a kind gesture.
The chances are slim, but if they blank you, they are likely uncomfortable with such interactions. But remember, you could be the light in someone’s dark corner. If you don't feel comfortable doing so, take baby steps—a big warm smile and greeting as you pass someone will go a long way too.
In such a harsh and dreary time, we all need some spiritual renewal and love.
And if you know someone newly single or comfortably single, reach out and share the magic of Christmas.