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How To Survive The Holidays, When Newly Single or Divorced

the single/divorced gals guide to surviving the holidays

I may be remarried now, but it wasn’t so long ago I found myself an essential runaway bride, suddenly being very much single and alone, right before the holidays. I’m not sure if I cried more tears or spiked more eggnog, but I was certainly a holly jolly hot mess. It’s bad enough going through a breakup or recovering from divorce at any time of year, but navigating these kinds of emotions during Christmas is a whole ‘nother level of pain. Because Christmas is a time to embrace those you love, get cozy in front of the fire, enjoy work/family/friend parties as a couple, and pasting the fridge with Christmas cards full of happy families in matching plaid.

It’s almost too much to bear, especially when newly single. And then after army-crawling through Jesus’ birthday, you’re faced with glitter and glitz of New Year’s, where the focal point of the night is kissing your man at the stroke of midnight. It’s killer. Here are some thought about what to focus and not focus on, when finding yourself newly single or newly divorced this time of year.

#1 Avoid the Triggers

For me, it was the stinking Christmas songs.  I felt like every jingle jangle held a special twinge of pain…especially the sappy ones. I remember literally breaking down to “Baby it’s Cold Outside” in the middle of a coffee date at Starbucks, quickly signaling to my alarmed friend that we’re takin’ this party to go. Same goes certain favorite Christmas movies, or little traditions we do every December. The list is endless, and so is the misery, if we let it. I wouldn’t recommend opting out of all holiday cheer to avoid being sad (not even an option if you have kiddos), but I do think it’s helpful to create new traditions and try new things. Sign up for that 5k Jingle Run you’ve always wanted to try. Take the kids to a new holiday light display instead of the same one you’ve enjoyed as a family to avoid being triggered. It’s only natural to think of how “it used to be,” and miss “what we had,” when re-living the same traditions and memoires, but Lord knows there are reasons we’re alone now, and many of them are valid. Don’t become captive to the past. Sure, “Baby it’s Cold Outside” gives all the feels, but it’s also about an Alpha dude trying to rob a girl from her beauty rest. All glasses tend to skew rosy at Christmastime.

# 2 Put All Your Energy Towards Kids (Spoiling Optional)

If this is your first Christmas being divorced and you have kids, first let me say, this one will absolutely be the hardest. I have SO many divorced mom friends and all can attest there’s just no way to prepare for all the mixed emotions we carry when newly divorced at Christmas. Splitting time with the kids, especially during the holidays and school vacation can feel absolutely heartbreaking, not to mention handling all the drama that seems almost unavoidable when co-parenting through major holidays. All of this is stressful and sad, obviously. But I’ve found that focusing on all the fun, sweet, memorable moments and activities with the kids can definitely distract from the loneliness and heartache. This is the year to say “yes” to the things you normally say no to. For us, it was driving to the number one Christmas tree farm in Connecticut to search for and cut down our own perfect tree-something me ex never wanted to do. It sure did require some extra help from strangers hoisting that tree on my little sedan, and some shock and laughter after realizing we severely overestimated the height of our ceiling (8-foot blue spruces look much smaller in their natural environments!) but my boys loved every last sap-covered second of it.

Get outside with the kids and make the snowmen, and say yes to sledding at night, even when you don’t feel like it. Blow up your kitchen for an entire night of gingerbread house making. Make a blanket fort and fall asleep to Christmas movies in the living room. The upshot to being single/divorced is we have lots of new quality time and autonomy with how we enjoy our kids.  I know how financially stressful Christmas can be, especially if you’re a single mom, but if you’re tempted and able to splurge on yourself and the kids this season, this is for sure the time. It’s been a year. If there’s ever a time for a ski trip or buying that X Box One, I can’t think of a better one.

#3 Prepare For The “Blue” Days, In Advance

The idea of preparing for sadness sounds pretty darned depressing but this is, after all, survival. Planning ahead for days when you know you might be prone to sadness is especially important for divorced moms facing time over Christmas without their kids. Making plans with friends or a loyal sister when you know you won’t have the kids may save you from some significant times of sadness. I normally wouldn’t recommend avoiding pain via distraction/denial, but Christmas and New Years are tough, and this is not the time to be a soldier. Say yes to party invites, even if you’re uncomfortable showing up without a significant other. Think about going on a girl’s trip for a few days if your ex has the kids for a chunk of time (trust me, it’s worth the money!) Say yes to every girl’s night happening when you don’t have the kids, and maybe even host your own cozy charcuterie board night. Friends are good for the soul. I know it feels safer and easier sometimes to stay home under the covers, soothing ourselves with Netflix and YouTube scrolls, but our spirits really do need the intangible, immeasurable joy and comfort we gain when around supportive, encouraging friends.

#4 Focus On The Spiritual Aspect Of Christmas

This might sound hokey and generic, but it actually works. I during an especially epic pity party by myself one night,  just me, my bubble bath and my raging estrogen, I decided to que up “Oh Holy Night” to calm myself. I went from feeling empty and depressed to experiencing an overwhelming rush of gratefulness, and joy. My life may not be anywhere where I thought it’d be that Christmas, but I serve a God of miracles. A sacrificial God of unconditional love who sent his son to die… for me. Despite any trouble life may bring, that is, and will always be enough. When walking through this highly emotive season with so many surging emotions, remember to always direct your thoughts to Jesus. Try and envision his loving eyes always near. His love is big enough to envelope your pain and heal your broken heart, but we have to invite him into our pain. It doesn’t mean we won’t still experience the heaviness felt when being alone, and the occasional tears, mourning the loss of what was, but having Him by your side, even during a very tragic bubble bath, makes all the difference.

#5 Remember, Singleness Is A Season, Not A Sentence

I get it. We’d all like to rewind back a few years ago, when we were happily scrolling through Rent the Runway searching for the perfect New Year’s dress while perfecting our “For my Love, at Christmas” card. It really does suck being alone during the holidays. It stinks not having anyone to wrap presents with by the fire, or someone to text “Ugh these LINES!” through inevitable shopping stress. Just remember. This is not the end of your story, and it won’t be like this forever. It may feel impossible or maybe even scary to imagine finding love again, and eventually having a partner again on Christmas. But God knows your heart, and your singleness is not a sentence, it’s your season. Your brokenness and/or broken family, may not have been God’s perfect will for our life, but our circumstances cannot hinder His good plans. God ALWAYS finds a way to work everything…every failed dream, every loss, every heartache…for our good. It doesn’t feel true in the moment, I know, but I’m here to say, He does. Use this time to reconnect with the Lord. Commit to actual worship and prayer time, just you and the Lord. Spending time with the great healer is the best way to navigate any season of sadness. And we are never, ever alone when we have Him.

There’ll be times of anxiousness or stress this Christmas for sure. You and your ex might both buy identical gifts for the kids. Aunt Nancy might just share ad nauseum how much she really loved our ex, after partaking in too much holiday no (He’s all yours now, lady!) Just focus on God, your kids and your heart. Christmas is a time of worship, not sorrow. And cheers to the New Year, and new beginnings, in Him. Can’t. Come. Fast enough. Xo


Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist, author and contributor to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huff Post, God TV, Beliefnet, Crosswalk and many more. When she's not burning dinner, daydreaming about the beach, she can be found on the trampoline with her copious amount of children, wishing she'd ordered the turbo shot.

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