Saying goodbye to a relationship or even a marriage is tough under any conditions. When these separations happen around the holidays, the grief can be particularly hard to manage. In my work as a Denver therapist, I help clients coping with loss of all kinds all throughout the year, but the loss of a significant relationship around the holidays is often the most challenging.
Below you’ll find ways to address the feelings you may experience during this time of year that is traditionally one filled with joy and togetherness.
Reframe the Loss
While it’s easy to feel the absence of your beloved, this holiday season is also a time to recognize the potential of your new life. Instead of focusing on the lack, work to focus on the possibilities before you, including finding more happiness and fulfillment in other relationships with friends and family, or on your own. Pay attention to the sense of freedom and expansion in your life in the absence of your previous partner. Tune into gratitude instead of absence. Reframing is a helpful tactic for putting things in perspective. Yes, you may be feeling a sense of emptiness without your previous partner in your life, but recognizing that you still have - good friends, a stable job, your health, and/or a place to call home helps put life in perspective.
Prioritize Self-Care and Self-Love
When you feel stressed and depressed around the holidays, it’s easy to reach for unhealthy distractions and look for ways to numb feelings. Common ways to cope might include overspending or overindulging in food and alcohol. Being aware of these tendencies and the triggers for them can also help you look for support and make the conscious choice to partake in an alternative activity. How could you channel the anxiety, sadness, or anger that might drive you to overindulge into healthier alternatives? Consider practices of self-care and self-love instead. Maybe that includes a day spent in nature with yourself, a restorative yoga class, journaling, an art project, or a session with a life coach or relationship therapist. Use your extra time off around the holidays to focus on who you’d like to become in the year that follows and choose activities that will help support that discovery.
It’s easy to fixate on a sense of lack when there is a void in your life around the holidays. And while it’s normal to feel that way, chances are that there were traditions or rituals in your previous relationship or marriage that were unfulfilling in your life. Take this opportunity to start new traditions that are truly satisfying and aligned with your personal values. For instance, if your ex enjoyed black Friday shopping and you often spent your day that way at his or her request, maybe it’s time to spend the day after Thanksgiving chopping down your own Christmas tree to ring in the holidays or hosting a friend’s Thanksgiving get-together. Perhaps it’s the perfect day for an annual volunteer opportunity. Tune into how and when you feel more fulfilled and alive and do more of that now that you have the freedom to reinvent.
When working through a divorce or break-up during the holidays, it’s common to feel that you are all alone or believe that you are the only person experiencing feelings of loss and grief during this time of holiday cheer. Know that you are not alone, and remember that hundreds of people in your community are most likely working through grief, loss, and sadness during the holidays too. Stay honest with your needs while evaluating whether spending time with others or by yourself will contribute to a greater sense of well-being during this time of year. Set healthy boundaries for yourself to ensure that you’ll start 2018 in a grounded, focused way, despite working to overcome loss during the holiday season.
Therapy can provide a safe place to feel the emotions related to the loss in your life and navigate the feelings associated with letting go and moving on. A third party can provide a neutral perspective and hold you accountable to healthy strategies to overcome any sense of grief or sadness that might arise for the months following a major life change. Friends can support to a certain level, but a professional can truly assist in the full healing process. Contact the team at Center for Shared Insight to learn more.