Holidays post-divorce are hard for the whole family, especially teenagers who have been used to celebrating as a family-unit their whole lives. Clients frequently come to me this time of the year wondering how they are supposed to help their teens navigate the holidays now that they are no longer with their spouse.
It is understandably a daunting task and one no parent should take lightly. The holidays are an important time. Post-divorce holidays can be a wonderful time to start new traditions and establish a new normal.
I encourage parents to get their teens involved. Ask the tough questions — how do you want to spend the holiday? Maybe they will want to go see a movie, have a special meal, or drive around looking at holiday decorations. What is most important to him/her/they? Maybe it is family cooking/baking, or the church pageant? Whatever it is— work with your teen to create a new normal that they will also enjoy and find special. Maybe they want to ditch the fancy meal and instead order takeout in their pajamas. The possibilities are endless.
The most difficult part of the holidays now is they are a further reminder that things are no longer the same and they never will be. That is hard for anyone to face and can be an extremely emotional time. Working with your teen to create new memories, new events, new traditions will show them that even though things are not the same they can still be special. Your teen needs to see that life will go on and that they will be ok.
As a parent, who is also going through a lot right now, take the time to listen. Hear out your teen. Consider what is most important to them and do your best to show them they matter. Your new normal will take some time to get used to but it has the potential to be just as incredible (if not more) than before.
You lost someone you love, someone near and dear to your heart. Maybe this was a person you spoke to on the phone a few times a week, or someone who lifted you up and supported you. Maybe it was someone that was part of your day-to-day life. Maybe it was a parent, child, sibling, friend, or even a pet. Regardless of the circumstances, losing someone you love is incredibly difficult. It can be hard to “go on” after such a loss. You suddenly don’t know what to do with your time, what to do without that person or pet by your side.
Honor what once was
The fact is, we are not the same after we lose someone. It is not easy to transition between what once was and what now has to be. Grieving is building a bridge between the old and the new, with each piece being put into place a piece at a time. It is a slow and concentrated deliberate process. You may have heard others say, take it a “day at a time” or even a “moment at a time.” Start slow. Don’t expect to feel better in a day, a week, a month. Yes, you will find that new normal. You will find your place but it is a process.
For example, maybe you have lost a grandparent whom you visited every Wednesday afternoon for coffee and a chat. Although things have changed, you can create a new tradition. Maybe replace it by going to a coffee shop and reading a book your grandmother enjoyed or visiting a special place of hers. Maybe use the time to call a friend or relative and chat. You don’t have to completely change your routine just alter it a bit to ease the transition while honoring what once was. If you have lost a pet that you walked every morning, replace that morning walk with a jog. These small changes, although full of a emotion and feeling much larger, will help you to build that bridge from old to new and rediscover contentment.
Loss is not easy but the pain does subside when we acknowledge it and honor it. You can move forward, you can hold on to the old while going forward in the memory of your loved one. After all, they would want you to find happiness again. We don’t need to gloss over our grief. Grief exists because we love.
What small steps have you taken to build a new normal after loss?