The holidays are supposed to be a happy time for family and friends.

If there is a divorce hanging over heads, the holiday dinner tends to taste a little bit different.

No matter how amicable and “friendly” a divorce may be, divorce is a traumatic, stressful and unhappy situation. The eggnog and hot cocoa taste bitter when such a cloud hangs over the family get-togethers.

When divorce is on the menu for the holidays, this can lead to some awkward conversations over the mashed potatoes. To get through the awkwardness, here are a few tips to handle family gatherings surrounding a divorce.

  1. Have patience.

If this is the first time you are by yourself either separated or divorced during the holidays, you need to quit assuming that the holidays are going to be the same as every other holiday season. You will have a different emotional state, and your family and friends will have a different take with you – they will likely want to be more sympathetic. Be patient with yourself and others, and be OK with not being emotionally in tune with the joyful season.

  1. Have flexibility.

We have holidays written out on our calendars, but are they etched in stone? If you have mutual friends with your ex-spouse and you don’t want the awkwardness of having to attend the same holiday get-togethers, arrange to meet with your friends or family on different days (like Christmas Eve instead of Christmas, or the Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of Thanksgiving Day).

  1. Reach out.

It can be easy to internalize when you are upset or depressed. But this is actually the time of year to show some outreach and be available for others to make sure that their holidays are joyous. This may mean being social, calling friends and family to visit with them, or paying attention to those less fortunate – visiting homeless shelters, women’s shelters, etc. The key here is, don’t be alone and look out for others over yourself.

  1. Show gratitude.

One of the great sustainers of overall happiness is expressing gratitude. Being grateful for your health, your children, your friends, your family, and sharing those blessings and gratitude can help many people overcome trauma and depression. This is the perfect time of year to count blessings and think much about the positive that is in your life.

Joy to the World

The holidays are supposed to be a time for joy and fellowship with friends and family. In the wake of divorce, those times could be clouded by feelings of anger, depression, betrayal or sadness. You can work with one of our divorce attorneys to help navigate you through the divorce process and get through the holidays with gratitude and blessings.