Christmas is a tough, tough time for the newly single. Ultimately, it’s a holiday that’s all about spending time with family and the people you love, which can feel like a slap in the face when your family unit is splintering or you’re slowly, painfully, falling out of love.
Everywhere you look, it seems the world is rubbing your nose in it. You’re surrounded by images of happy, loved-up couples, festive romantic comedies, adverts reminding you to buy a perfect present for that “special person” in your life. Not to mention the prospect of sitting through Christmas dinner with that emotionally defective great-aunt who can’t help asking intrusive questions about your divorce. What a minefield.
Faced with all of this, I can understand why part of you wants to tell your family you have the ‘flu, cancel your plans and curl up in a ball under a duvet for the whole of December, wallowing in your misery.
Don’t do that. Seriously: don’t. Self-pity is an indulgence all of its own – but not the Christmassy kind. You ARE going to get through this. Here’s how.
1) Force Yourself to Do Festive Things
Get into the Christmas spirit. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even though the niggling voice in your head is telling you it’s pointless and not to bother. Why let all your little Christmas traditions, the things you’ve always done and that make you happy at this time of year, disappear along with your relationship?
Buy a tree and decorate it, dammit. Put up those fairy lights or wreaths. Dig out the most ridiculous Christmas jumper you can find and get your festive playlist all cued up. Light the fire. If you’re lucky enough to get snow, rope in your friends or your kids (or your friends’ kids) to build a snowman. Laugh. Fill the house with Christmassy smells. This is your home, it’s Christmas, and you’re free to make it as wonderful or beautiful or kitsch and cheesy as you like. Do it hope however you want to make a safe, cosy, joyful environment to be in.
2) Make Christmas All About Other People
Its super hard to drag yourself out of your own negative emotions, but one of the best ways to get out of your own head is not to let things become all about you. Doing stuff for other people will make you happier. It will make you feel more useful, more valuable, more connected, more alive. And when better to do that than at Christmas, a time that’s made for giving and caring, being warm and generous and kind?
Take a minute to write a sincere, heartfelt note in the Christmas cards you send. Throw yourself into picking or making lovely presents and treats for your close family and friends. That’s doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune: just think really carefully about what you can give them that has real meaning or would be special to them. Take pleasure in their pleasure.
Be social: invite your besties over for mulled wine and mince pies, turn on the cheesy Christmas music and have a good giggle. Browse Christmas markets with friends. Go see a play or a film with a mate. Ask your siblings how they are and really listen to the answers. Offer to babysit for a frazzled friend while s/he does their last minute shopping. Make an effort to turn up to the parties, dinners and drinks you’re invited to – even if it means bringing a friend in tow for moral support.
Even better, go a step further and volunteer. Serve Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter. Send present parcels to Children in Need. Help out at a soup kitchen. Spreading some love and showing some solidarity with those who feel lonely and vulnerable – and who are in an even shittier situation than you – is good for the soul, good for your community, and good for you.
3) Practice Gratitude
You probably don’t feel like there’s much to be thankful for right now – but I promise that after you’ve started on steps 1 and 2, it will feel a lot easier!
Get into the habit of writing down at least one thing you feel grateful for at the end of every day. Make it something specific, like a kind word from a stranger, or how a friend went out of their way to make your afternoon fun, or the way your kids hugged you and said they loved you before they went to bed. This help you to shift your mindset from focussing on the pain and negativity you’re feeling to the little nuggets of joy in your day. It helps you to remember the good stuff, and to look out for it.
Christmas makes this easier, not harder. It’s a time when everyone’s making an effort to meet up, when presents are exchanged, when you see people you’ve been meaning to call for ages. Everyone around you is in high spirits and willing to do nice things for each other. There are parties to go to where you can drink too much and perform ill-advised karaoke. If you have kids, they’ll be making you presents and cards for you at school. You can get away with drinking Eggnog and Kir Royal and hot chocolate with booze in it. There’s yummy food everywhere to eat, guilt-free. That’s a lot to be grateful for. Don’t let yourself forget it.
Feeling stronger and more festive already? Check back next week for part two!