The holidays can be a tough time of year for women who are divorced. I hear this all the time, ‘I used to love the holidays and now after my divorce I hate them. I dread them coming up.’ Or women will come to me and tell me that even though they don’t miss their ex at all, they still feel a lot of sadness around not being a family that’s all together during the holidays.
Because this is so common and because the holidays are coming up fast, I wanted to talk about why there can be so much hurt this time of year and give you some tools to use to help you feel a little bit better as we approach the holidays.
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Do you want to have an amazing holiday season this year and for years to come? Are you tired of dreading seeing all the happy families, feeling let down by your ex, and not being able to be with your kids every year? Did you used to love the holidays and now hate this time of year because of the pain and sadness that lingers on? If this sounds like you, then I want you to know that you can learn to love the holidays again. Schedule your free consult with me and we'll talk about what you're struggling with and how I can help. You don't have to figure out life after divorce all on your own. We'll take everything that you're learning on the podcast and step by step implement it in your life to help you heal and move forward toward the life that you actually want to live. Schedule your free consult by clicking here.
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Full Episode Transcript:
I’m your host, Karin Nelson and you’re listening to Becoming You Again, episode number 68.
Welcome to becoming You Again. The podcast to help you with your mental and emotional wellbeing during and after divorce. This is where you learn to overcome the trauma of your divorce by reconnecting with yourself, creating lasting emotional resilience and living a truly independent life so your life will be even better than when you were married. I’m you’re host Karin Nelson.
Hello my friends. How is everything going? Everything here is going great. Utah is absolutely beautiful this time of year. We had our first snow the other day, and even with the snow the leaves are still turning their beautiful colors. My daughter who is in her junior year of college came over to spend the afternoon with me the other day and it was so much fun. We kept it very chill. There’s a little local small town grocery store that has the BEST donuts around. We went and got some donuts, I took her grocery shopping. We came back to the house and watched some UFC which is one of mine and my boyfriend’s favorite things to watch on Saturdays and she’s not a huge fan of blood so she did close her eyes a few times. But it was just fun hanging out. We played skipbo and snuggled with cats and talked. It was such a nice chill afternoon. What have you been up to? What do you like to do when your adult kids come to visit for a little bit?
Oh and also announcement time. I almost forgot. If you don’t know already I have a free monthly group coaching and support call that anyone can come to. This month’s call for November 2022 is going to be November 22 at 5:30 pm Mountain time – that’s 7:30 eastern. I just want to remind you this is the Tuesday right before Thanksgiving. And I promise you if you are struggling with the holidays you are going to want to come to this call. It is going to be so helpful for you to get some coaching to get the support that you need. If you are in any way struggling with the upcoming holiday season come to this call. It is free. You can get coached by me. You can just come listen to other people getting coached. If you’ve already registered for a previous call you don’t have do anything. You’re good. I will send out the reminders and the same link. All you have to do is check your email and put this call on your calendar. And if you haven’t and what I want you to do is click the link in the show notes and register for the call. Again, this month’s call in November is the 22nd, that is November 22, 2022 at 5:30 PM Mountain time. So make sure you get registered and come to the call. Put it on your calendar right now so you don’t forget. And come get the help that you need.
And this is actually a really good segue into today’s topic which is why the holiday’s hurt after divorce. The holidays can be a tough time of year for a lot of women who are divorced. I hear this all the time, ‘I used to love the holidays and now after my divorce I hate them. I dread them coming up.’ Or women will come to me and tell me that even though they don’t miss their ex at all, they still feel a lot of sadness around not being a family that’s all together during the holidays.
Because this is so common and because the holidays are coming up very fast, right, I wanted to talk about why there can be so much hurt this time of year and I wanted to give you a few tools or a few fixes to use to help you possibly feel a little bit better as the holidays come around.
I think for many of us, especially in the US, over the last few months of the year like the last 60 days, right, we believe that it’s a very overwhelming time of year, because in the US as most of you know we’ve got Halloween and then Thanksgiving a couple of weeks later and then December hits and it’s just like every holiday possible really. Depending on your religious or your cultural beliefs we’ve got Hannukah to Christmas to Kwanza and then before you know it, it’s new years’ eve. Right. And there is so many other holidays thrown in there and then holiday parties and all of the things.
And because as a society we tend to associate this idea of celebrating holidays with family, and that makes so much sense that so many of us who are divorced would feel sad and disappointed around the holidays. One of the reasons so many women feel hurt and absolutely dread the holidays when they really used to love them is because many women define their divorce as a breakup of their family. And when they then think about their family as broken, then of course it’s going to hurt and feel painful to head into a season of the year where everything you see, everywhere you go, everything around you is completely focused on families being together.
So I want you to know if you are feeling this way, just understand that it makes total sense to be feeling this way. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re not bad for feeling hurt. You are not showing up in your life in the wrong way. It makes sense that you are dreading the holidays coming up. But I promise you there is a fix to this hurt and this dread and you can change it if you want to. So I am going to teach you how in today’s episode.
So the fix to letting go of the dread and letting go of the hurt that you are feeling is to let go of this assumption that your family is now broken because of your divorce. I say assumption because this idea that divorce breaks up families, this is an opinion. It’s a thought. It is not a fact that every single person would agree with. It’s meaning that you might give to the situation of divorce, but I promise you not everyone agrees with this idea or this meaning. Not everyone defines their divorce as a break up of their family. Some people actually look at it as a good thing. Not everyone views their family as broken after the divorce. This is how we know that if you’re believing this it’s an assumption you’ve adopted and it is what is creating a lot of pain for you.
So how do you let go of believing this assumption? You really have to start questioning if it’s really true or not for you. Start asking yourself some really good questions like, “What if I’m wrong about this and divorce doesn’t break up families?” or “How could it be true that divorce doesn’t break up families?” You could also ask, “Do I want to be right in believing that divorce breaks up families? What is the upside to believing that this is true for me and my family?” “What is the upside to believing that my family is broken? Is there an upside?”
These are the kinds of questions that are going to make you think in more perspectives than just your own. It’s going to stretch your mind to look at things in a different way. And it is going to help you to be open to letting go of the idea that your family is broken because of the divorce. You might be wrong about that.
I want you to think about this. If you didn’t have that painful story that your family is broken because of the divorce running through your head for the last 60 days of the year how different would your life be for those last 60 days? If you didn’t have the idea running through your head? Would you be able to enjoy an even look forward to the holidays coming up? What would be different about the way you show up in your life if you thought about it in a different way? These are just some things to think about and take a look at for your own life, for your own sake to help you let go of some of that hurt and dread that you might be feeling.
Another reason why the holidays hurt so much after divorce is because we fall into the comparison trap. This shows up in two different ways which is usually the case when we fall into the comparison trap. I’ll talk about both but the first is we compare our now to our past and we see our now as a problem. So what we do is we keep replaying what the holidays used to look like and because we have this story running through our heads of what used to be then we take what the holiday is going to look like now and we see that as a problem. Like they didn’t used to look like this. They used to be amazing and perfect and that’s not the case any more and this is a big problem.
And when we see things as a problem then our brain fixates on the problem and begins to worry about it which then puts our nervous system into panic mode. And I’ve talked about this before but when our body is activated and you don’t do anything to deregulate your nervous system, your brain reads that panic mode (which you could also label as anxiety for many of us right) and it reinforces to your brain that yep this is a big problem and so it continues to believe that the holidays are a problem which then continues to reactivate the nervous system. It’s no wonder that so many divorced women dread the holidays because they are feeling so much worry and anxiety over this comparison that it’s not going to be like it used to. And because they don’t know how to deregulate our nervous system we feel emotionally exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed which just adds to that dread and answer that hurt that we are already feeling.
The fix to this type of comparison is to number one, drop the comparison of what the holidays used to be. It is possible for you to treasure what the holidays used to be and to create moments now that you can treasure about your holidays. It’s not that the past was good and so now the present has to be bad. It’s not either end of the spectrum. One was good and one has to be bad. It’s where we’re getting as close to the middle as we can with how we look at the past and the present. This can sound something like, I loved how my holidays used to be and I am figuring out how to make my holidays special now. When you go into the holidays with the thought that is similar to this, you can come up with your own, you can use mine, you can brainstorm so many new options, right, this allows you to keep what was good from your past without using comparison to tell you that what you have right now is a problem and it’s wrong.
And then the second way that we use comparison against ourselves over the holidays and we create all this hurt for ourselves is we compare to what we see going on around us. Maybe we’re comparing to our ex’s life and his new girlfriend and all the presents that they give to the kids at Christmas. Right. Or maybe we’re comparing to our married friends and their seemingly perfect lives, or the neighbors or that woman that you follow on Instagram who always has the perfectly decorated house and her kids and her husband look perfect and they’re all dressed up looking happy and loving. When we fall into this kind of comparison trap there’s a story that we’re telling ourselves that everything is working for them and is great and our lives are terrible and are falling apart. Right. How many times have you told yourself that story? I know I definitely have done this at times and I know I have coached my clients through these stories that we tell ourselves.
And the fix for this kind of comparison and to be able to stop that hurt around the holidays is two parts; first know that this comparison is a lie. When you tell yourself this story you are lying to yourself. So be willing to tell yourself the truth. What is the truth? The truth is that no one’s life is perfect. Not that person on Instagram. Not your ex and his girlfriend and the kids. Not your neighbor. Not your best friend who has the perfect married life. It is not true.
It’s the universal fact of human existence. No one is perfect. No matter how hard we try we will never in this life be able to live up to that perfect ideal. Whatever that is. Which is another part of this, what does perfect even mean? It’s different for everyone right and it is something that can never be attained. And so be honest with yourself about that. Just that right there is when you can open up to that honesty is going to cut back on so much of that hurt from the comparison.
And then the second part to this is to show up with compassion for yourself. Because even though I tell you all of these things it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do, right. The fix is simple, but not always easy. So show up with compassion for yourself. And that means being kind to yourself and asking yourself, what does being kind to you look like when you find yourself comparing to others during the holidays? Maybe it looks like not beating yourself up for being divorced, or not being able to be with your kids on the actual holiday. Maybe it looks like setting some boundaries like I am not going to dinner with my family. It’s too hard for me to manage my brain when I am around them. Or maybe I’m not posting this year and I am going to make it easy on myself and just show up with a side dish. Like setting some boundaries for yourself. Or maybe it’s like I’m not going to follow that woman on Instagram any more. It’s too hard for me to stop the comparison and so the way I can do that is I can just stop following her. Then I do not have to continually get myself out of this space where I am spinning in thoughts about what is not right about my life. Right. There are hundreds of ways that you can show yourself compassion. Come up with a list and that can be your action plan to help support yourself during the upcoming holiday season.
And the last reason that I want to talk about today of why the holidays hurt after divorce is because we often think that the holidays need to look a certain way. We do certain traditions at the holidays. We eat certain food. We do certain things with family members and those things determine whether a holiday is good and successful or whether it became a disaster.
We have this idea from society. All right let’s be real here. So much of these ideas that we have adopted as the right way to do things come from society, calm from our culture, come from the way we were raised, come from what we see around us. For example, like on Thanksgiving we all get together and mom cooks a big turkey dinner and we all sit down and eat and laugh and are happy. Or maybe on Christmas morning the kids are all in the same house and we wake up and open presents in our jammies and then have a big breakfast while everyone plays with their toys and then we do the big Christmas dinner together as a family. We’ve seen those stories. They’re in movies that we’ve watched our entire lives. They’re on TV. They are in commercials. They’re what our families did and what our parent’s did and what their parents did, right. But I want you to know, just because this is how the holidays have been in the past, doesn’t mean that it’s the right way or the only way to celebrate the holidays.
So the fix for this is to intentionally decide what your holidays are going to look like. You get to decide their holidays look however you want. And you don’t have to make yourself wrong for choosing them to look that way. You can decide if your holidays look different than before were then someone else’s that it doesn’t mean that it is bad or wrong. So take some time to really think about this and decide intentionally what is important to you that you want to include in your holiday celebrations and maybe what are you going to be willing to let go of that is maybe not as important or maybe is holding you back or creating a lot of hurt and pain for you.
Maybe the idea of actually being with your kids on Christmas is no longer an option every year after divorce, like it is for so many of us, myself included. Right. How can you continue to support what’s important to you in your holiday celebration and what will that look moving forward? Really think about this because it is totally up to you. You just get to decide. There is no right or wrong answer.
Like for me, one thing that is very important to me that I really love is sitting together as a family opening presents but every other year I don’t get my kids at my house on Christmas morning. So instead we do our Christmas morning on Christmas Eve and I don’t make that be wrong. I don’t make it be a problem. I open myself up to enjoying my time with them, figuring out how I can make this time special for me and inviting my kids to make it special for them and making it a holiday experience that I can remember. And then I just decide that I’m going to show up with love for myself and my family. Whatever that looks like in the moment. I promise you that if you really take the time to decide for yourself what is important to me and what do I want to bring to this holiday season it’s going to change everything for you. It does not have to look how it used to it. It does not have to look like anyone else’s. You just get to decide intentionally.
There is no right or wrong way to do the holidays and the more you can open yourself up to this idea, the less hurt you will feel coming into the holiday season.
All right my friends. Thanks for being here. That is what I have for you today. I’ll be back next week.
If you like what you’re learning on the podcast and you’re ready to create lasting change and results in your life then you need to be working 1:1 with Karin as your divorce coach. This is where we take everything you’re learning in the podcast and 10x it with implementation and weekly coaching where you start to see change in yourself and your life immediately. To find out more about how work exclusively with Karin go to www.karinnelsoncoaching.com . That’s www dot Karin nelson coaching dot com.
Thanks for listening. If this podcast episode agreed with you in any way, please take a minute to follow and give it a rating wherever you listen to podcasts. And for more details about how I can help you live an even better life than when you were married, make sure to check out the full show notes by clicking the link in the description.