How To Cope With Spending Christmas Alone After Divorce

by Debbi Dickinson

The first holiday season after a divorce is tough.  Traditions and memories of the past that you built while married will become front and center during this time of year.  If you have children, the thought of spending the first holiday apart is painful; but if you are committed to living in the Spirit of the Season the holidays are still very much enjoyable.

There are ways to enjoy spending Christmas along after divorceMy daughter was seven years old when she spent her first Christmas with my Ex after the divorce.  Having spent the three prior Christmas’ with just the two of us, the thought of not having her on Christmas Eve and Day filled me with mixed emotion.  To add to this, I do not have any family that lives within 1000 miles of where I lived and faced the prospect of spending my Christmas alone.  Desiring a joyful Christmas for myself and daughter, I lived by the following guidelines.

Not to harbor resentment against my Ex.  I knew in my head it was my Ex’s legal right to have his daughter for Christmas.  I also knew that it was right for my daughter to spend Christmas with her father.  Regardless, I still felt I was being cheated for Christmas and could feel a resentment growing against my Ex.  I had to get to a place of acceptance that I would still spend Christmas with my daughter it just wouldn’t be on December 25th.

I made the decision that year and every year since to have our Christmas when she returns from her visit.  I have been very happy with this arrangement and have found that I enjoy having the wrapped gifts under a tree for a day or two more.

Don’t play martyr.   A friend had asked me that first year what my plans were for Christmas.  I had no desire to hop on a plane and be far away on Christmas even though I wouldn’t be with my daughter.  I told my friend I had no plans.  She made the observation that it sounded like my plan was to sulk all day.  She was right and hearing that was what I needed to snap myself out of being self-centered.  I want to live the Spirit of the Season which for me means to volunteer my time in being of service to those less fortunate that I am.  It was a special Christmas for me and a lesson in humility and gratitude.

Enjoy the Holidays.  I needed to remind myself that Christmas Day alone does not make up The Season.  I needed to make sure that my daughter and I still enjoyed the activities we’ve come to do each year.  I knew I needed to be upbeat about her spending Christmas with her father.  She was excited and I didn’t want to send her out the door feeling guilty about Mom spending it alone.  I talked with her about how much I was looking forward to my holiday and the holiday we would spend together when she came home.

Tradition of Being of Service.  I have had several Christmases by myself and each one I’ve done something a little different with the common theme of being of service.  One year when my Grandmother was 101, I traveled down state on Christmas to be with her in a nursing home when I learned she was going to be alone.  That was a special year since it was her last Christmas and I was able to assist her in wishing every family member a Merry Christmas by phone.

The Holiday Season is not a one day event and I need to remember that.  Now having spent several Christmas’ alone, I have built traditions that are uniquely my own on how to celebrate.   For me, giving of my time and attention to others are the greatest gifts I can give.

Debbi Dickinson is a Divorce and Addiction Expert. She is the founder of Stepping Into Joy. As a divorced sober mother, she is passionate about assisting other women move beyond their divorce and begin creating an extraordinary life for themselves. Her website is: Stepping Into Joy or you can follow her on Twitter @debbidickinson

This year my kids are with me on Christmas Eve and going to my ex’s for Christmas Day so like Debbi, I’m used to celebrating our Christmas when we’re together and not necessarily on December 25th. I’m not sure how I’ll spend the day … The easy part for me is that my ex and I live in the same town which usually means the children are popping in and out of here even when they are staying with him.

I also like spreading the Holiday season out so when the children were just infants I started this tradition of the elves coming to visit and leaving small gifts for them. It’s our twelve days of Christmas. At nineteen and seventeen there’s no more pretense about who the elves are but they still enjoy the surprises.

Are you spending Christmas Day alone this year? How do feel about it? Do you have plans?

  • Nancy Wurtzel

    This is great advice. I’m reluctant to admit it, but I played the “woe is me” role for several years after my divorce. Feeling sorry for myself when my daughter spent Thanksgiving with her dad and his family and also over other holidays. It isn’t a great way to spend a holiday and it makes everyone feel down. Finally, I pulled myself together and realized that I was hurting my daughter and myself. Lesson learned. Great post…keep them coming!

    • Mandy Walker

      Thanks for sharing this Nancy. My husband and I separated in January so I did have almost twelve months to adjust to living singly but the idea of spending Christmas Day alone still panic’d me. I thought because it was a Holiday and supposed to be a special day, I had to do some different from a normal day. I had no idea what to do and it’s really hard for me to sit and chill!

  • T

    Mandy, I was just thinking about this the other day when I heard the song, “Where are you, Christmas?” on the radio. I recall, shortly after the ex and I split, feeling so low about the holidays. I still spent Christmas with my girls that year but I just wasn’t into it at all. I had to find strength within myself to learn to love Christmas again.

    I will be with my girls on Christmas morning and the ex is getting them that afternoon. I still haven’t been without them on Christmas and it’s been 6 years! I know it’s just “a day” but that day is special to me. I hope the ex and I will always be able to share that day, at the very least.

    • Mandy Walker

      Hi T – I’m glad you’ve been able to keep Christmas Day as your special day … it’s worked out for six years I imagine there’s a strong possibility it’ll work out for many years to come.

      I hope you have a very magical and wonderful Christmas.