“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I think Charles Dickens knew what he was talking about even if he was not referring to the holiday season. The holidays can pull you and your emotions in a thousand different directions. And then, yes, tack on the additional stress of a divorce and you can feel like you are at your tipping point.
Much of my own holiday season feels like a clip from “Christmas Vacation” (you know the 80’s movie with Chevy Chase where the squirrel jumps out of the Christmas tree) instead of that magical movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I confess that I have never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” through to its duration, but I have seen “Christmas Vacation” more times than I should admit. It likely says something about my own family, but we deem “Christmas Vacation” to be a classic.
However, maybe the Griswold’s had some things right that we all need to remember, including those dealing with a divorce, around the holidays:
- The holidays are filled with “squirrels.” I do hope that a squirrel does not jump out of your Christmas tree, scratch your face, and cause unnecessary mayhem at your house this holiday season. But…there are figurative “squirrels” all around that may annoy us or put us to that tipping point. Take some time for yourself this holiday season whatever that may look like to you.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help. We all remember the scene from the movie—Clark Griswold attempts to put 100,000 lights on his house (actually I googled it and it claims he put up 25,000 incandescent bulbs on his house). He initially fails miserably at his efforts to light up his neighborhood. However, ultimately he prevails with a little help.
- Avoid toxic people (or relatives)–We all have a “Cousin Eddie” in our family (hopefully yours is not living in an rv in front of your home). We all relate to Audrey at times who said, “Would it be indecent to ask the grandparents to stay at a hotel?” You may find yourself still living in the marital home with your spouse and/or children through the holidays. Be mindful that especially during the holiday that you may find your spouse “pushes your buttons” even more than normal.
- Start a new tradition—Your life is flux during a divorce (let’s admit something to ourselves, your life is always in flux since so goes life). This holiday may feel a little different; the holiday time that you, your spouse, and children shared now may be divided between two homes. Instead of sadness over what was, take this opportunity to start a new tradition.
- Be realistic—You may envision the holiday coming together in sheer perfection—be that the perfect decorations or presents. The reality may feel about like the Griswold Christmas dinner and the turkey disaster. Give yourself a pass especially going through a divorce this holiday and create realistic expectations for yourself and your children. This includes realistic financial expectations during the holidays that you do not get punished for when January gets here.
- Embrace the positive and find a little humor—I know you are thinking this is a low point in your life. Take a moment to go back through all of the things that are positive aspects in your life right this very moment.
Clark: Hey, kids, I heard on the news that an airline pilot spotted Santa’s sleigh on its way from New York City.
Eddie: You serious, Clark?