The holidays are coming. The falling snow, ringing of sleigh bells, and smells of turkey and pumpkin pie can conjure memories of family and togetherness.

When we are divorced and over 50, these same images may trigger emotions, making us feel heartbreak, grief, stress, and loneliness. The holidays can feel like a dark lonely void. When no longer married and with children grown, many of us start to dread this time of year.

Starting this new chapter in our lives does not mean we have to dread the holidays. In fact, we can actually love them again and celebrate on our own terms when we remember the following.

 
 

Dreading the Holidays Comes from Years of Unrealistic Expectations

For years, we have been inundated with people telling us how the holidays “should” be. It could be from watching impossibly staged meals on cooking shows. It might be from pictures we see in the media of the perfect holidays, or from family members who say “but we’ve always done it this way.” We have been taught to do whatever everybody else wants to do. Often, we have never learned to imagine how we want the holidays to be for ourselves.

So, it’s no wonder why we feel lonely or stressed when we are spending the holidays alone!

These unrealistic expectations of perfect holidays and families getting along have conditioned us to feel as if we are not up to those standards. We feel that we are wrong, and that we’re not celebrating the holidays “the right way.”

You have worked too hard over the decades and deserve more than to get sucked into the idea that you’re doing the holidays wrong. This year, it is time to envision what the best holiday season means for you, regardless of where you are in your life.

If you are alone, you are still worthy of celebrating the season any way you like. A change in family circumstance does not mean you are sentenced to feel bad. It just means that you are now given an opportunity to decide how you want the holidays to be, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

Be Careful of Selective Memory

We’re all guilty of remembering our past holidays when we were still married as perfect. It’s easy to fall into this trap when we are divorced and over 50. When we are alone, we tend to think about the times when the family was together, when the marriage was strong, and when the holidays were “perfect.”

But what we forget are all the things that weren’t great during the holidays when we were married. When we shut those not-perfect memories of family holidays out, we are subconsciously setting ourselves up for failure. We are holding our current holiday mood up to an impossible ideal of selective memories that may not be correct. We do this when we are feeling down, trying to imagine a happier time.

This way of thinking does not serve you because you are holding yourself to an ideal that is impossible to attain. Making yourself feel guilty or resentful or longing for the past will not serve you this holiday season. The only way to start loving the holidays again is to reclaim for yourself… now.

How to Love the Holidays This Year Instead of Dreading Them

During the holidays, especially the times when you were married or raising a family, you were probably so caught up in trying to please others. You were almost certainly trying to make things so perfect that you never took the time for yourself.

But overlooking your own needs stops now.

This holiday, especially if you are spending it by yourself and are worried about being lonely, gives you a unique gift. This season, you get to ask yourself and do something for yourself that you may have never had the opportunity to do before. You get to choose the season for yourself.

The first steps to learning to love the holidays again begin here. Celebrating you in this chapter of your life, starts by answering the following questions. Ask yourself:

What do you really want to do?

What will give you joy this holiday season?

What steps will you take to get there?

That is all you must ask yourself. These answers do not have to be complicated. You are not required to spend a lot of money on them.

Reclaim Your Life as a Divorced Woman

Shaking off your loneliness and reclaiming the holidays for yourself as a divorced woman over 50 is all about taking care of yourself for a change. This is the year that you can say “no” to the things from holidays past that you have not enjoyed and that bring you stress, such as traveling, seeing toxic family members, spending too much money.

This is also the year where you can pick the traditions that you love and throw out the rest. This is the year that you can define what a joyous season means to you and choose to celebrate how you want to celebrate.

And learning to love the holidays again, even if you are divorced and over 50, starts with kicking those unrealistic expectations to the curb and ignoring the selective memory that plays tricks on you.

These new few weeks can be the season that you finally recognize that you deserve holiday joy and happiness and you have the power to define that on your own terms. Will you accept that gift?

Have your feelings about the holidays changed now that you are older and divorced? How will you celebrate the holidays this year in a way that brings you joy? Please join the conversation.

Martha BodyfeltMartha Bodyfelt is a divorce coach, whose website “Surviving Your Split” helps readers navigate their divorce with less stress and drama, so they can move on with their lives. For your Free Divorce Warrior Survival Kit, stop by Surviving Your Split or drop Martha a line at martha@survivingyoursplit.com. You can also visit her on Facebook.

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