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Divorce and the Holidays: What to Do Now?

Get through the season without the strife from your breakup.

The holidays can be an absolute miserable time for anyone struggling with a loss, and we should think about coming to terms with a divorce like other grieving processes. What are some of the key steps for navigating this difficult period? Here are three examples.

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Divorce and the Holidays: What to Do Now?

First, seek emotional balance. There is no right or wrong way to experience your emotions, but research shows that avoiding our emotions and/or becoming over-involved (ruminating, obsessing, pining non-stop) can be equally bad. A key step is to feel your emotions—to experience them, to notice them, to observe them—without letting your emotions drive your behaviors. For example, if you feel very jealous of your ex, what do you do? Should you text her to see what's up? Just to keep a little connection going... Just so she won't forget you? If you do, you need to recognize that the emotion (jealousy) is driving the behavior (texting an ex), and this will serve to maintain the negative emotion.

COLUMN: When Leaving Your Ex, Love Yourself

A better tact is to experience the jealousy... let it pass... experience it again... let it pass... so on and so forth. Eventually, the emotions will diminish in intensity and the waves of emotion will come less frequently.

Second, don't become isolated. Being alone can be very good for us, and if you're someone who "can never be alone" it's an important skill to cultivate. However, in the face of divorce, we want to avoid becoming isolated. In a divorce, friends and family change; the social fabric of our lives often disintegrates.

One approach for protecting against the negative impact of these changes is to re-kindle relationships with your family and old friends. For some, this is easier than for others, but the essential issue here is turning to older "attachment relationships" to help provide some of what was lost when your relationship ended. It is important to seek out this kind of support and not wait for it to arrive at your door. Support can be logistical (for example, getting kids to sports; watching kids so you can go out) or it can emotional (for example, coffee with a dear friend; a walk with a close parent).

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