The first series of Reverse Firsts is always the most difficult.  A Reverse First is any holiday you celebrate during the first twelve months of being newly divorced. The season is bookended by Thanksgiving and New Year’s and includes any capital-lettered holidays after divorce you celebrate in between.

Reverse Firsts Aren’t Festive

It’s safe to say that from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day experiencing the holidays in a state of Reverse Firsts is akin to being kicked in the balls with the regularity and form of a synchronized swim team. You may recover from the first contact, but another is just around the corner.

The culmination, the grand finale of the most wonderful time of the year, is of course New Year’s Eve. At no other time of the year is the social pressure to have a special someone to kiss higher than it is at 11:59 pm on December 31st.  This pressure is heightened only by the glittery equivalent of an emotional wrecking ball dropping in Times Square, across times zones, translated in one zillion languages and watched by millions.

I don’t think the smoking of mistletoe has been legalized in any of the contiguous United States in which case we need to come up with a plan to get you through the holidays after divorce without singing “Fa la la la laaaa… @#[email protected] the Holidays!

Anticipate What You’ll Be Facing With Family

The first and best thing you can do for yourself is this: think it out. Consider what you’re getting into. Let’s assume you have traditions, say every year you go home for the holidays. You visit family you only see but once a year. You run into high school buddies and hit the old stomping grounds. The turkey is in the oven and lighting is ideal for a greeting card photo shoot.

Last year you were totally stoked about singing carols in your matching Fair Isle sweaters, but ask yourself if you’re up for it this season. Trust your gut on this one, as no one knows your family and friends better than you do. Are you coming home to hugs of understanding and fireside chats with words of wisdom from Aunt Martha? Ask yourself if chestnuts won’t be the only thing roasting over an open fire. Are you walking into a judgmental firestorm?

Home isn’t always where the heart is and if you need to sit this round out, then by all means do so. If, on the other hand, hanging out with old friends will do your mind and body good then wrap up last year’s fruit cake and prepare for a joyous re-gifting.

Family Is What You Make It

If following the traditions of years past is by no means attractive to you, this is the perfect year to start a new tradition. Your own tradition. The adage that family is what you make it will make complete sense when you find yourself surrounded by people who spend their holidays with you because they choose to, not because they have to. Social media makes finding others who want to share a table a bit simpler. Let word of mouth spread and whoever is able to come is exactly who is supposed to show up.

Make it a casual, potluck-style open house and those who have to work will be grateful to have a place to make an appearance.  Pick an activity if you like, go bowling or have everyone bring a game. If you prefer, sponsor the dinner and have those who are able to attend bring a gift for a family in need. It’s amazing what resources you can compile when people come together.

Take One For The Team

If the thought of the holidays are just too much this year consider taking one for the team. By that I mean go to work. Pick up a shift for someone who wants to celebrate but otherwise couldn’t. It’s a win-win because you’ll stay busy and help someone who will be grateful as will their family. If your job pays overtime for the day put the extra money toward a gift or trip, some sort of reward you can present yourself with when crossing the finish line that is January 2nd. If working on the holidays doesn’t improve the life of someone else, consider skipping town. Go to some remote area where it doesn’t feel as much like the holidays. If you’re accustomed to seeing snow and the thought of seeing happy families celebrate through frosted windows makes you want to overdose on eggnog, then head toward the equator where even on a good year it wouldn’t feel right not seeing snow.

You Can Choose to Forego the Holidays After Divorce

If you’re feeling particularly down and out, break from traditional entirely. Forego the holidays completely and go be of service. To someone else. Someone less fortunate than you.  Someone who doesn’t have a choice of who, when and where to spend this season.

Be of service to someone who doesn’t have the luxury of family, a table to invite any number of friends to surround or a loved one to kiss under the mistletoe. Be of service, not so that you feel better than the less fortunate, but because you can’t help but feel better and learn from situations entered into with a spirit of giving. And it truly is the season.

How have you handled the holidays after divorce? Speak up in the comments below.


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