Divorce Recovery and the Holidays: What a Head Trip! – How to Make a Tough Time Better

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It's the holidays. And, if you are going through, or recovering from a divorce, this is the time of the year that dashed (or perceived dashed) hopes and dreams materialize like ghosts of Christmas Past to terrify and intimidate us. The old pictures of how things were, and especially of how things were "supposedly to be," emerge out of the mist and suck the life out of our hope and conviction that life is good and there is still something vibrant and alive to live for .

At the same time, ads busily remind us through song that this is "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Thank you for sharing, but no, thank you.

Ending a relationship is tough, but then add some seasonal messages about family, love, and picture-perfect moments. Ever-present holiday music that brings back memories. Questions like, "Who gets the kids on Christmas eve?" "What's wrong with having Thanksgiving dinner alone at my favorite bar?" and "What if I have to spend New Year's Eve alone?"

Now you'll have a picture of the train wreck that can happen when divorce meets Auld Lang Syne.

The onslaught of holiday messaging will soon be upon us, and depending on where you are in your divorce recovery, I want you to remember a few basic truths:

If You've Been Through a Divorce in the Past

If you've been divorced a while, but the holidays bring back feelings of regret and loss over that past marriage, it's normal to feel surprisingly sad, confused, and even seemingly longing for how things used to be. Often, we get confused when positive thoughts or memories about a past relationship creep back into our minds, even if it was in our best interest to end it. This is normal. It's okay to feel ambivalent.

It's also okay to feel sad about the end of the relationship. Some of your heart-felt hopes and dreams died there. But if feelings of regret and loss are not limited to the holidays, it's possible you're NOT quite completely over your divorce yet. Time to take inventory. Take a look at the current level of stress you are experiencing over the divorce. Then, be open to completing any unfinished business blocking your recovery.

If You're Going Through a Divorce Now

I want you to know that you're not alone. Many people have been exactly where you are. Almost forty percent of the adult population has been through a divorce. They will understand, if you just reach out to them. And while your greatest pain may be the loss of things to come, it does not mean your future is completely void of holiday memories to be cherished. In fact, most of the holidayopes and dreams you "used to have" still exist. Those dreams were yours, not your ex's. They are waiting there to be scooped up and have life breathed into them again.

The holidays conjure up our idealized dreams about how we hoped life would be. Just because those fantasies are not a current reality does not mean that your reality can not be beautiful, hopeful, satisfying, and rewarding in its own right. Our task is to acknowledge the dreams and enjoy the bountiful harvest of good that our reality has to offer. Dreams are good. Life is good, too.

Remember, holidays are a head trip. Will we focus on the good that we've lost, or will we focus on the good we now have to look forward to? This is our challenge.

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