Divorce is a major life changing event and although statistically quite common is one of the most painful and difficult events that any of us will have to endure. There are some times of the year when the emotional effects of divorce are particularly overwhelming and Christmas is definitely one of those times.
For many women, Christmas is a painful reminder of what it means to be separated or divorced. A time for families and yet for you it may mean that children will not be at home or only partially at home. For other women, it may mean being alone or having an entirely different sort of experience from the one that might have been enjoyed for years.
Coping with divorce is not only about the immediate emotional impact of loss, it can also be coping with knowing that the ex is with someone else or there is a family or friends gathering somewhere that you used to be a part of.
Christmas cards written and signed by one person instead of two, shopping for presents given from one person instead of two, thoughts of the in laws having a family gathering to which you are excluded and the thought of Christmas lunch with friends or family and children but not yours can seem unendurable.
Although there is no quick fix, there are ways to make the experience better and anticipation and preparation can be the key. The idea is to lessen its impact so that it can be viewed not so much in the context of what isn't available and therefore missed, but in the context of what is available and can be enjoyed.
Make a list of your worst fears and then take some time to really look at it. A list will often include feeling alone, feeling everything is second best, feeling insecure and unvalued, feeling left out and envious of imagined good times that other people are having. Really looking at the list can put it in perspective. Instead of everything feeling unmanageable and overwhelming, you can look at what is bothering you most and it will feel more contained - some things won't seem as bad as others.
Prepare early so that you are not left feeling vulnerable. Look at your worst fears and meet them head on. If you don't want to be alone, make an arrangement way in advance so you can look forward to it and know you have something to do.
If your children are going to be away for a few days, try to think of it as a mini break for you. If you can re-frame the experience of it, then it will feel easier, a gain rather than a loss. They will be coming back, so take advantage of a few days for you. It may not be what you want or what you would choose, but because it will happen, you will need to find the positives in it.
If your worry is that you have nowhere to have Christmas lunch, make plans now. If you really can't find somewhere to go, perhaps you could host your own lunch or drinks party. It is a start and a way of saying, this year has been bad, but I can survive and manage. People will see that you are embracing the change and will support you in it. Hold your head up.
If plans are not working for you, as it is all too complicated and too much effort, perhaps you can think about sitting this Christmas out, in terms of what you are used to and instead contact a charity and make yourself available for the day. Although it doesn't feel like it, it is in fact, only one day. That day will come and it will go and however you have spent it, it will pass. You are entitled to feel sad and unsettled, that is normal.
Perhaps you can give some thought to this year ending and a new one beginning, with new choices, new freedoms and new possibilities. Anything new is fearful and it may feel more comfortable to just wish for your old life back. As 2013 is heralded in, change will come with it if you allow it to and if you open the door to the New Year, a fresh start will blow right in.
Founder of Divorce Support Group.
0844 800 90 98