Breakups are hard no matter what the circumstances. Maybe you're 16 years old and your boyfriend of three months has broken up with you just before Christmas. Or, perhaps you're a 25 year old man whose girlfriend rejected your marriage proposal. Or, you've been married for years and your spouse left both you and your children. Whatever your situation, your breakup is a loss and it hurts. You have grieving to do. How do you manage to survive the holidays? Here are 5 ideas:
1. Balance: Have Your Feelings then Release Them!
Denying your feelings will not make them go away. You need time to talk, cry, or journal your thoughts. However, spending all your time absorbed in your feelings will not help you either. Rember that grief is a process, you cannot do it all at one time anyway. After you spend some time letting out thoughts and feelings, it's helpful to engage in some other activity or invest your engery into another person (like say your child, your parent, a friend). By the way, I would recommend that you put a time limit on addressing your feelings (5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes)! You can come back to your grieving at a later time.
I had a client who would pretend to take her negative thoughts and feelings into her hands and then "throw" them out of the large window in my office towards the mountains. We called that her "release." You can release feelings in your mind (picture the galaxy, the ocean, a mountain) by "throwing" them towards whatever you picture. Remember, this is different from denying that they are there. It means that for just this momement you are going to release your feelings and focus your energy onto something or someone else.
2. Break Tradition and Mix it Up!
I was recently asked Molly* whose husband recently left her, how she was going to spend the holidays. At first she said, "at home," which is the house the two of them bought together and where they spent the last 10 Christmas holidays! I asked her how she might feel spending Christmas alone in their home. "Lousy! she replied, and after talking about that for a few minitues she said, "I think I will go skiing instead!"
Does it make sense in your situation to break tradition and do something new? Your "new" thing doesn't have to be as big as a ski trip, but it could be eating out on the day of the holiday, visiting someone that you generally do not visit, going somewhere local, etc. You won't have memories of doing the "new" thing with your ex, and it can help occupy you and bring more enjoyment to the holidays.
3. Love and Give
By far, one of the best antedotes to wallowing in our own feelings to to invest emotional and physical energy into other people. These people maybe your children, grandchildren, your friends, cousins, or complete strangers! You can cook for your neighbor or volunteer at shelter. You can take your younger cousin to a movie or your grandmother to get her nails done. All of us need care, connection, and attention. You might be amazed by how caring for someone else will help you with your own feelings.
4. Think Twice (or 5 times) Before Contacting Your Ex!
It's easy to get sentimental around the holidays and have a distorted view of why your relationship broke up. If you find yourself focussing too much on your ex, it's time to invest your energy elsewhere, with the ideas described above.
Impulsively contacting your ex is usually not a good idea. You might have had too many glasses of champagne at a New Year's Eve party. You might be up late texting your friends talking about your ex. Suddenly, contacting him/her sounds like a good idea! Resist! Think about it when you are not tired, drunk, lonely, or sad. You will have a clear head and can make a better decision.
5. Come back to your Grief after the Holidays
It's o.k. to postpone or "take a vacation," from your grief or thoughts about your breakup. It's a good time to treat or pamper yourself. Get a massage, get your nails done. Go to a game with a friend, a movie, or some other fun activity.
After the holidays, You may want to talk to a therapist to help you sort through your feelings and make any necessary decisions. You might need to talk to your ex (if appropriate or necessary). Reminding yourself during the holidays that you can deal with these issues after the holidays might help you to focus on the "here and now," and gain some enjoyment from them. This postponement might also help you to connect with and enjoy your friends and family.
None of these ideas are meant to minimize the pain you feel. Rather, my hope is that even in the midst of your pain, you can still find some meaning and connection with others during this holiday season!
*All Client names and details are altered to protect confidentiality
Published On: December 23, 2008