Dear Dr. Diana,
Last year, the holidays were a time of great sadness for me. It was the first Christmas and New Year that I had experienced on the heels of a terrible divorce. I was in love with my husband and didn’t want the divorce. A couple of months ago I started feeling better than I had in a long time, just getting used to my life as a single person. But now, as the holidays draw near, I’ve got a terrible case of the blues again.
What can I do?
Singing the Blues
As you already know, the holidays are a time for family, friends, and togetherness. But it’s not such a happy time for everyone. The pressure and the memories of how things used to be can create sadness and a longing for what one doesn’t have anymore.
It may help you to remind yourself of the not-so-good times that led to your divorce. When you find yourself longing for what was, change the channel. Reframe. Counter the sad thought with a memory of what didn’t work for you in your relationship. There had to be negative aspects of your relationship that created its demise. It’s only natural to remember the good times but it’s not the whole truth. Instead of letting yourself get mired down in the sadness, try to be brutally honest with yourself and think about the things that weren’t right in your relationship – the things that you don’t miss. While it’s natural to grieve a divorce for a while, it’s also important not to romanticize it as being better than it was. It makes the loss more painful when your recollections are out of balance.
During the holidays, spend some time thinking about what you want 2013 to look like. Write down some positive goals in the area of your physical, emotional, financial, mental and spiritual health. Then write down the steps necessary to accomplish those goals. Keep these goals and steps in a place where you can readily access them. Look at them often.
A few more suggestions to help you get through the holidays:
• Accept any social invitations as long as they aren’t negative people who will bring you down;
• Get outside of yourself by thinking of others – think of someone who is in need of company or volunteer in a soup kitchen;
• Invite other single people over to your house for a celebration;
• Buy tickets to the theatre or a concert that you’re been wanting to see so that you will have something to look forward to;
• Make a gratitude list. Read it every day and add to it. Research shows that people who think of three things that they are grateful for each night before sleep are less depressed and happier.
• Try not to overeat or over drink during the holidays because that can cause depression. And surround yourself with supportive loved ones.
Wishing you a peaceful holiday and love all throughout the coming year.
Diana Weiss-Wisdom, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Rancho Santa Fe. She specializes in marriage counseling, step and blended families, couples and marriage seminars and retreats.
Author of “Wisdom on Stepparenting:How to Succeed Where Others Fail” available on amazon.com
Next: ‘Hold Me Tight’ Marriage Enrichment Program at The Cottage Clinic in Rancho Santa Fe: Feb. 1-3, 2013. For more information, www.cottageclinic.net or call (858) 259-0146. This is an advice column, not meant to replace psychotherapy or treatment.