We are all looking forward to saying goodbye to 2020, but if this is the first holiday season you are facing amid a divorce, it may feel difficult to get excited this time of year. Tasked with your first holiday post-separation can feel daunting as you worry about how to make the holidays feel special and decide whether or not to continue traditions established during a relationship. You may feel pressure to put out a message that you are not only living, but thriving. That being said, the first holiday season post-separation can be filled with new and uncomfortable realities. Here are a few tips to help you both get through and even enjoy the holiday season this year:

1. It’s okay to not be okay

It is important to acknowledge that it is okay to not be okay. A lesson many of us have learned this year is that the unknown and change can be scary. This is even more true when going through a significant life change like a divorce.

In a now infamous interview, Megan Markle, after being asked if she was okay only a few months after having a child, notoriously shared that she was in fact not okay. This interview was so widely discussed and shared because too often during times of change and crisis we force ourselves to appear composed and “okay.” Instead, we need to give ourselves permission to feel what we are feeling and admit that we are not always “okay.”  

It is both acceptable and expected to still be mourning the loss of your relationship and acknowledge that you are not okay this holiday season. Allow yourself to answer questions with a genuine response and lean on family and friends to lend an ear when you need it.

2. Be kind to yourself

The most important relationship each of us has is the relationship we have with ourselves. Just like you would give a friend or family member love and positive affirmations during times of crisis, give this love and positivity to yourself.  There are many digital solutions in the market today that offer things like mindfulness and meditation which may also help you to take time out for yourself when you need it.  Remember that being alone is not the same as being lonely; value yourself and your company. 

3. Embrace change

This is your opportunity to create new traditions while embracing and acknowledging the change you are going through. Since this year will be different for most, use this as an opportunity to create new memories and traditions either for just yourself or the whole family. You might look into supporting a charity or feeding families in need; consider trying new foods or selecting a new location for your holiday meals. 

Just like the rest of 2020, the holiday season looks and feels different this year. From re-imagining holiday staples like the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade to coordinating appointments to see the lights in the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday windows, this holiday season has been about adapting and embracing change.

4. Recognize that every divorce is different

We all have that friend who went through a divorce or whose friend’s sister went through a divorce and wants to tell us how divorce works and how it feels during the holidays. Recognize that every divorce is different and every person’s experience with divorce is different. Just like your friend’s marriage was not the same as your marriage, likewise your friend’s divorce was not the same as your current divorce. Not only are you different people, but every situation is different. Therefore, it is important to do what feels right for you and not necessarily what everyone tells you is the right approach in your situation.

5. Have an open dialogue with your co-parent 

If you have children, have an open dialogue with your co-parent around holidays so that you can help set expectations. While this may be difficult, especially when the separation is still new and raw, it is important to provide your children with a united front and guidance. This can be accomplished by agreeing on (and following) a parenting schedule that works for your family. Some families choose to spend the holidays together, despite their separation, while others celebrate separately by either dividing the holiday or alternating years. If you have chosen to alternate holidays, consider making a plan that allows the children to feel connected to both parents and extended family despite the distance by scheduling a family zoom or facetime call. The key is to not involve your children in any of the conflict that may arise around the holidays. Even the friendliest of divorces come with disagreements over scheduling.

The first holiday amid a divorce is always difficult; we often romanticize past experiences, creating a revisionist history during times of crisis or change. This year, try to recognize when you are doing that and instead pivot your thinking into living in the present. For some that will mean calling a friend, for others that will mean taking a break to have a hot chocolate or a glass of wine. Whichever way you choose to celebrate this year, accept that you are doing your best and your best is enough.