My first Christmas post-break-up was emotionally tough; it was 10 months after my marriage had ended and the resurgence of grief took me by surprise. Special occasions can knock you off guard just when you think you are coping, and can be particularly cruel if they happen very close to the end of your relationship. The Christmas season, weddings, summer holidays – in fact any celebration which drives home expectations of “togetherness”can make you feel like an outsider, a failure or just really sad and low.
It can feel hard to turn to other people at this time of year; who wants to feel like the killjoy bringing down everyone’s happiness? From the other side it looks like everyone else’s life is perfect; meanwhile, you are desperately trying to avoid the “what are you doing for Christmas?” conversations or trying not to cry at the thought that you may not be with your children this year.
Although Christmas day (and the lead up to it) can feel like a lonely time, you are often less alone than you think. If you have friends and family who love you, lean on them for support; let someone in and tell them how you feel. I will always remember how touched I was when a generous friend asked me to spend time with her and her family over the Christmas period. Hearts are often open at this time of year, and despite how busy and preoccupied they seem, people who love you will make space for you and your sadness.
But what if you don’t have someone close to support you at this time of year; what if the Christmas planning, the expectation to feel festive and the emotions of grief all feel too overwhelming? Maybe all you want to do is hide away until January. I remember feeling a particular sense of wanting the year to be over so that I could put it behind me and start afresh. This is when it is important to be kind to yourself; life goes on and while others go about their Christmassy business, seemingly oblivious to your heartache, the world can feel harsh. Take time out for yourself to honour your own feelings, letting yourself express any sad or angry emotions. Give yourself a boost in whatever way works for you, whether it’s going for a run or eating chocolates on the sofa. Give yourself permission to do as much or as little socialising as you wish. If you need to just watch Christmas movies and weep, then do it.
Very importantly, don’t neglect yourself on Christmas day; make sure that you buy yourself a gift to wrap and put under the tree. You may no longer have a partner but you are still worthy of receiving something special and, at least this year, you’ll get something you really want! It’s especially important to do this if you have children and you are unlikely to get gifts from another adult because, as much as kids love receiving on Christmas morning, they will be genuinely sad if there is nothing under the tree for mum or dad.
If you are struggling to know what to give yourself, here are some ideas:
- A journal – use it to record where you are now and to see how far you’ve shifted emotionally in a year’s time
- A yearly planner – set yourself goals and plans for the year ahead
- Any item you wouldn’t have previously bought because your ex-partner would have hated or criticised it
- A treat to look forward to later in the year (e.g. voucher for a well-being or beauty treatment)
- A challenge to work towards later in the year (e.g. entry to a fitness event or charity fundraiser)
- Chocolate (of course!)
Getting through the next few weeks might feel like a nightmare right now, but your future is bigger than any single occasion or season. It may be hard to imagine, but this time next year your life could be in a very different place!
Wishing you love and peace over the coming weeks,