Christmas is by far one of the toughest times after a breakup or divorce because it is traditionally a time for families and loved ones to come together. So it is normal that it heightens the feelings of loneliness and highlights the fact that you are single and no longer with your ex. It can stir up negative emotions that usually are manageable with the distractions of your normal daily routine. However during the holidays it gets harder to distract yourself as your focus shifts to where you will be, what you will do and who you will spend time with for Christmas. It’s hard not to think about it without feeling sad when you are heartbroken about your breakup.

Everyone’s breakup is different and affects them in different ways. Some people find the emotional rollercoaster the hardest part to cope with and for others it’s the new practical challenges they face that are the toughest to deal with. But whatever the circumstances the ripple effects of a breakup can be the cause of much stress and upset over Christmas.

The build up to Christmas can be really tricky when everyone around you is getting excited and making plans. A female client of mine, Sasha, came to see me distraught as this year she would not have her two young children for 10 days including Xmas Day and Boxing Day. All the talk about Christmas with the mums at the school gates was making her feel like the odd one out and she was fed up with putting on a brave face. She was also worried about not spending Christmas Day with her children and missing out on all those magic moments.

But did you know Santa will come twice if your parents live in different homes? Yes it’s true! You have to book it in advance but he will come to your house on a different date if you’re divorced! So this way you can have all the excitement of Christmas Eve, presents and turkey on Christmas Day and even playing with presents on Boxing Day and eating leftovers! So you get to have all those magic moments with your children, just on a different date. It works and your kids get two Christmas’ so it’s a win-win for everyone! 

A newly divorced male client of mine recently explained that for the last 12 years he has always cooked the Christmas lunch for his family and then on Boxing Day he always cooked a goose. It was special to him as it was their family ritual and now he had to get to grips with the fact that he wouldn’t even be seeing his children on those days. They were spending it with his ex-wives family this year and he would have to wait until next year to spend Christmas Day with his kids. He had been enjoying this routine for so many years that he could not imagine Christmas without his children.  

He was feeling really low about it and so during his coaching session with me we discussed other ways of making Christmas special for him. He has a couple of single friends and so decided to invite them to his for lunch so he still would get to do the cooking. Not for his children, but even so it would mean he could have a few more drinks and watch sport on TV so he actually got quite excited about this “new normal”!

A close friend of mine, Emma, was dumped by her boyfriend out of the blue and she was terrified of spending the Christmas holidays alone. She was totally heart broken and her feelings were amplified by the feeling of loss at a time when loved ones are traditionally together. As it would have been their first Christmas together she had planned the day in minute detail from the food, the gifts even to the dress she would be wearing. All this made it even more upsetting as her day wasn’t going to happen as she had planned. 

It can be hard to recreate something that has meant so much to you, especially when you are missing your ex so much. However finding another way to spend the day is essential, don’t wait until the morning of 25th to wake up and have that sinking feeling wash over you. Plan a different day that you can enjoy. Emma chose to volunteer at a shelter for Christmas Day and as she didn’t want to miss out she decided to wear her new dress anyway! 

There may not be a magic wand to take away all the pain, but the good news is there are lots of things you can do to help you cope better over Christmas after a break up. Here are my top 7 steps:

  1. Give yourself a break: Remember that feeling sad is a normal and necessary part of the grieving process after a breakup. Crying and feeling low is part of the healing process you have to go through and if you try to avoid it by stuffing down negative emotions and distracting yourself, they will come back to haunt you and show up in other ways. It’s ok to cry as it helps to release the negative emotions.
  1. Surround yourself with loving and supportive people: The people you surround yourself with will play a large part in determining how you feel. So take care to choose to spend quality time with people who make you feel good about yourself and who are positive about the future. Sometimes even the most well-meaning friends and family can be emotionally involved in your breakup and can make you feel worse. Make plans to see the people who make you laugh and you look forward to being around.
  1. Recreate Christmas for your kids: If you won’t be with your kids on 25th December then you don’t have to miss out on those magic moments. You can celebrate on another date! Pick three days when you do have them and recreate Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day on those days instead. Father Christmas will come twice for children who have two homes!
  1. Do something different: Plan ahead and make the actual 25th December a special day for you that you will enjoy. Do something that you wouldn’t normally do. Maybe spend it with other single friends, take a trip to visit friends you would not normally get the chance to see, volunteering to do some charity work is a great way to put things into perspective, or go out to a restaurant the kids would never have sat still for!
  1. Change the way you look at it: Instead of feeling sad about it and seeing it as a negative, use my technique Flip It to find the positive about it and focus on that. It may be that you get some quality “you time” or help others less fortunate than you. It may take some practice to find something positive but changing your focus will have a huge impact on how you feel.
  1. Get your sparkle back: Get your diary out and plan some activities that you will look forward to. Make sure you get a good balance between quiet time where you can rest and pamper yourself and also fun times where you are out, socialising and having fun. Don’t be afraid to try new things either.  A client of mine tried trampolining and found it made him completely relax as he couldn’t hold on to any negativity whilst bouncing around!
  1. Take the opportunity to plan for 2021: Set the new year up to a great start and spend some time thinking about what you would like the future to look like for you. What do you want to achieve in 2021? What would you like to start doing? What would you like to stop doing?  Set yourself some goals to kick your new year off in the right direction.

Remember that it’s not what happens to you in life that counts, it’s what you do about it that defines you as a person. So take back your control of the Christmas holidays and decide what you want to do and how you want to feel. By getting a plan together you can create a Christmas you enjoy and some incredible magic moments you will always remember.