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7 Divorce survival tips for the holiday season

Michela Montgomery graduated with her B.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach. Although born and raised in California, Ms. Montgomery considers Boston her second home. She enjoys singing, dancing, yoga, co...

Make Christmas a joyous occasion again, even if it's without your spouse

As you pull out the lights and tinsel, turning the calendar to December can seem as painful as wearing a beaded thong to the gym. The holiday season becomes a catch-22 for most people who have gone through — or are going through — a divorce. You love the idea of the holidays, but your mind inevitably goes full blown A Christmas Carol on you and you’re being tortured by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Only now, he’s got a buddy: the Ghost of Christmases that Will Never Be.

Is there a way to make it through the holiday season with your sanity — and sobriety — intact? Hold on, honey. I’ve got you covered.

1. Let go of what was

Trying to re-create what the holidays "used to be" is not only painful, it’s an exercise in futility. Accept that your life has changed, and that means your holidays have too. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be just as great, it means that they will be different.

2. Stop trying to make the holidays Disneyland wonderful

You’re going about this all wrong if you convince yourself you will need lights, bells and whistles to make your holiday shine. A holiday isn’t amazing because it’s decked out in all of its former glory. It’s amazing because the people you surround yourself with are happy, safe and warm.

3. Give yourself permission to suck

Your first (few) holidays might be really tough to get through without a few tears and growing pains. Making a dinner on your own, putting up a tree (why don’t those damned trees come with a large lumberjack to put them up?) or even hanging lights on the house might not be done perfectly — and that’s okay.

4. Do something different

Just because you always did it one way when you were married doesn’t mean you have to now. If you always hated vacuuming up pine needles from the carpet, it’s time to buy a faux tree or vice versa. Make some changes in how you do the holidays, and you will feel more in control.

5. Enlist help

Whether it’s hiring a company to put up the Christmas lights or buying your entire dinner from Sudbury Farms, it’s OK to admit that you can’t do it all. Once I learned to ask for help, I found that it freed up time that I could spend doing other things — like eating Christmas cookies.

6. Don’t just sit at home

In my experience, sitting around too much led to over-analyzing, which led to obsessing, which led to… well, you get the picture. Go to the town tree-lighting ceremony, a holiday festival or craft fair, or even just go to the mall and walk around amidst Christmas lights and music. Get out and among people when you can.

7. Pamper yourself

Find something that comforts or nurtures you, and then do it. If taking a long bubble bath with champagne sounds divine, knock yourself out. Treat yourself to a Christmas massage, or even a mani/pedi. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to involve anyone else if you don’t want to. The important thing is that you give something to yourself — just because you’re worth it.

The first set of holidays can appear to be overwhelming when you’re going through a divorce — or have just been through one. Take it one step at a time, and you will make it through in spectacular fashion. The holidays have changed for you, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be stellar once again. Put some cheer back in your holidays, start new traditions and try to see this as a new beginning.

Chins up, my darlings. You might even find a surprise under the mistletoe, so remember to bring your lipstick.

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