If the holidays typically affect your life, a divorce and pandemic will likely put you and yours into a seasonal tailspin.  In fact, if you're still in the process of legally or emotionally ending your marriage, this "holiday season" may feel more like a "divorce/pandemic season" with a bad case of the holidays. 

That's right!  Your divorce is going to make a huge impact on everything in your life and the holidays and social distancing will certainly make it worse.  But, many of the common pitfalls are easily avoidable with a little simple planning and foresight.

We put together a short-list of what you can do to keep your divorce and virus fears from screwing up your life around the holidays and holidays from complicating your life while divorcing.

10. Keep meal planning simple

There are numerous options to keep your holiday feasts and snacking easy.  Stay on budget and prepare easy sides and yummy appetizers yourself while ordering delicious, prepared main entrees from local vendors, caterers or grocers.

When visiting other's homes for the holidays consider bringing a gourmet gift basket or order a basket to send directly to the recipient from online retailers or places like Costco®.

Also, consider buying party trays, entrees or baked goods from SAMS®, Honey Baked Ham® or Panera®.

9. Scheduling is everything and nothing

Don't overschedule yourself for the sake of keeping up with last year (if last year was good) or high expectations for a better year (if last year sucked). 

On the flip side, don't just "bah humbug" the season because you're going through a divorce.  Stay busy to the point it raises your spirits.  Stay lazy to the point it lowers your stress. 

8. Find a support buddy

If the kids are with your ex and quarantines get in the way of large family gatherings, it helps to have a friend or two who can share "off hours" that are usually spent with family. 

Even if you don't expect major changes, make sure you have a "text buddy" at the very least to chat with while going through the many changes during this season.  It's not too late to find a local divorce group for peers with similar struggles.  

Cosmopolitan magazine has a great online article with advice and all the latest apps and sites to help you find new friends!  Adding friends to your support system may be the best thing you do this season!

7. Stay safe, not secluded

Just like hospitals and grocery stores have safety protocols, there are ways to spend time with family without significant risk of contracting COVID-19.  Follow the advice of the CDC.

Also, if inviting others to your home during the holidays, we suggest you disinfect immediately prior with virus killing products.  However, a common problem is that the products used to disinfect are not used as directed, which may cause them to lose effectiveness.  So, remember to use the products according to their directions in order to ensure they work as guaranteed.  This may mean spraying or leaving the disinfectant on high traffic areas/furnishings and fixtures for a period of time for the most effective germ killing.  

Ask guests to wear masks and for them to take their temperature before they come over.  Maintain limited contact and social distancing (so no big smoochy hugs and kisses from Auntie Berenice).

Ask guests to virtually visit if they have had recent exposure or symptoms. Suggest older, pregnant or otherwise high risk guests also attend virtually this year.  Try Zoom.us for video conferencing.

6. DON'T overspend

It's easy to have few boundaries in place for holiday spending when your finances are in limbo during a divorce.  Try to discuss a budget with your ex regarding gifts for your children, mutual friends, teachers, service providers, family or for charitable donations/tithing, if possible.  Keep it simple and don't be afraid to reduce or remove some people from your list this year.  e.g. If you usually spend $100 on a gift together and have enough to spend $50 alone, spend $40 this year or less.  Don't try to keep up with the past (which in many cases may have contributed to your marital hardships anyway). 

Anyone old enough will have the maturity to understand a smaller gift during this difficult time in your life and anyone young enough to not understand (like the kiddos) will have an opportunity to realize "life happens" and when it does, love from a happy, healthy parent is better than a big gift from a grumpy, stressed out parent trying to keep the divorce from affecting his/her kids. 

Face it, it does, it will and they can adapt.  You don't need to share all the stressful details, but don't shelter them from recent changes.  It just makes it harder in the long-term.

5. Forget romance

Unless you're already in a new relationship, don't stress over being single during the season.  Having two or three holiday seasons without a romantic partner allows you to redevelop your individual holiday spirit, schedule and expectations. 

If romance and relationship status are important to you, then know that you'll likely not be single forever.  The opportunity to rediscover the holidays without the stress of in-laws or twice as much Christmas spending and travel can really improve your holiday mood. It may also  provide better holidays in future years when you find that right someone with similar holiday expectations.

4. Give because it's the season of giving or as a good negotiating tactic - your choice

It's so incredibly hard to give-in with your ex or soon-to-be when it comes to holiday scheduling, support and spending.  But, it's a great time to give tactful negotiations a try.

If you have children, keep your focus on the important things: children's feelings, religious commitments, important gatherings.  But sometimes, you need to give to get; so in the interest of your children, focus on one significant event or holiday expectation this year and give on some others. 

At the very least, giving up on less important issues provides a great negotiating tactic for getting what really matters.  Sadly, when it comes to children, assets and housing - divorce is more like a game of tug-of-war rather than an amicable split of two people formerly in love. And, in the divorce game of tug-of-war, sometimes reducing the tension on your side of the rope is the only way not to be the one who ends up on the proverbial ground.  

3. Consider seeing a doctor, counselor or joining a peer group

Not everyone needs a prescription.  Your problems won't just go away with an anti-depressant, but it may help you cope for a certain period of time while going through this difficult time in your life.  When seeking an anti-depressant it's always best to have a complete wellness plan with the help of your prescribing doctor and a therapist or counselor.  Discuss possible referrals for additional well-being support and go over goals for your short- and long-term expectations. 

Note: Most antidepressants take several weeks before you might see results, so the sooner you get started, the higher the probability your antidepressant will be effective when you need it the most.

Start with a peer group through your local church or counseling group if individual therapy or prescriptions don't initially seem right for you. 

Understand the difference between being sad and stressed from clinical depression and anxiety by speaking with your family doctor or psychiatrist.  Don't just rely on advice from friends or the internet.  Depression is a medical problem and needs medical intervention for diagnosis and the most comprehensive treatment.

Divorce is a heavy hitter when it comes to the cause of nervous breakdowns.  It's important to put a wellness support system in place to avoid a breakdown or furthering of depression rather than cope with the aftermath of a breakdown or worsened health.  Depression and anxiety are not weaknesses.  But, seeking treatment should be considered part of your strengths. 

Take a peak at some of our related articles:

Could you be suffering from a breakdown?

Depression. Real. Simple. Miserable.

How to cope with social anxiety

2. Try something new this year

Look.  Life is different after you and your spouse split, like it or not.  Even if your marriage was pretty bad, you may feel lonely and sad, despite not being clinically depressed.  You may feel there's a void in your life.  

Some of that's because your routine is the same, just short a spouse.  A great way to embrace your new life, your future is to start a new holiday routine (go to a new church for holiday services, decorate differently, try mixing it up a bit regarding gift giving, plans and holiday meals). 

Don't change everything and if you have young kid's, keep them in the loop.  Their routine is changing no matter what (in most cases).  It helps to gather their input on changes that you can control regarding their holiday routine.  

1. Forgive yourself and others and when all else fails, social distance

As we mentioned at the start of this article, if your divorce is still affecting you and yours this season, this specific holiday season may very well end up as the most horrible holiday season you have ever had.   It has a lot of obstacles and so do you.  Don't be too hard on yourself, others or expectations for "what it should be like".  Know that children, pets, friends and distant family members are also affected (which can bring out some really awful or odd comments or behavior).

What's most important is what you can affect and for whom you are responsible.  So, take care of yourself and your children.  Don't run yourself ragged thinking you're doing the right thing for your children's happiness when your motives may really have an underlying issue related to mommy/daddy guilt or other issues for which a counselor or therapist can help you cope.

You provide a significant influence to your children.  Who they become as adults is often impacted by their parent's behavior and actions while they were kids, more than anyone else.  If you're unhealthy (mind, body or spirit), your impact on their future may be a negative one, regardless if they had expensive gifts, live like the divorce never happened or were sheltered from your pain. 

Your impact on your children's life after they are grown and gone will matter a great deal.  So, raise good people, not just good children.  Do this be being good to yourself and they will learn to do the same (which best prepares them to be good to others). 

Never take your eye off their overall well-being or yours.   Remember, their opinion matters, but until they're 18, make decisions for their lifetime not necessarily for their current "wants", including the latest and greatest PS4® game, adorable puppy or lululemon® apparel.  You're the adult and they should respect your decisions as such.

If other family and friends negatively impact your life, holidays or parenting, then you may need some time without your naysayers in your life.  Try to keep it on good terms when possible, but social distancing may be a great excuse to "social distance".  So, take an indefinite break when needed from anyone that makes life harder right now.

Warmest wishes for your 2020 Holiday Season

From our family here at DMK, we wish you a most joyous, simple and wonderful holiday season and if all else fails, after the children are all nestled in bed... we suggest a pint of chocolate, chocolate chip ice cream, lots of eggnog, an occasional bottle of wine or glass of scotch and binge watching your favorite shows on Netflix®. 

We recommend you eat, pour, pee, repeat and do so 'til the tree dries up, realize your Christmas lights are still up...in January or at the very latest, St. Patrick's Day (at which time we'll regroup, discuss and suggest new coping strategies for the divorce, depressed and desperate (aka -  forward thinking, singleton and relevant influencer, ready to face new people, challenges and holidays!).

Regardless, we'll have new 2021 articles starting in January to help you through the hard stuff and get started on the better part of your journey towards a healthier, happier YOU!

As always, remember we're people just like you who've been through the holidays and divorce.  We're not doctors, counselors or therapists.  Our suggestions shouldn't be confused with professional advice.  If you seek such advice, please find a local professional on our DMK Directory.

Happy Holidays!



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