From a reader: Anyone else feeling compelled to throw any received holiday photo cards directly in the recycle bin? I’m getting aggravated already when I get texts asking for my mailing address. Last year, going through a divorce, the holidays were heart wrenching, this year, I’m divorced. I go to this place of “what, you think you’re better than me??!” (So not my style, but the damn family photo cards have become a trigger for my holiday bitterness). I’m clearly on edge.
The holidays can be such a challenging time even when we feel our life is going in the direction we want it to. It’s even worse when things aren’t going as we hoped they would be. Your awareness of the different feelings you are experiencing–including aggravation and bitterness) is to be admired, and your admission of those feelings even more so.
It sounds like last year you were in heavy grief over the change in your family status–your divorce. That’s completely normal and it makes sense that seeing holiday photo cards of happy families would be so painful. Seeing other families could so easily trigger feelings of loss, unhappiness, and holiday bitterness when we aren’t experiencing the same thing. Especially if that’s what we want, the loss of it is terribly painful.
This year you seem to have hit the stage of anger and defiance. This is also totally normal and often part of the grief process for many people. It would make sense when you are bitter and angry and experiencing what you are experiencing to go to a place of, “Who do you think you are?”
So much of emotional recovery and growth comes from being truly aware of our thoughts and feelings and accepting that we are feeling that way.
What you might want to watch for is letting those feelings of holiday bitterness, anger and resentment overcome you and lead you to being bitter more often than not. That would hurt you and your ability to go on and lead a joyful, fulfilled life. So how do you do that?
Advice for holiday bitterness during divorce:
First, as you’ve done, become aware of what you are thinking and feeling. Then, accept your feelings as a normal part of the grief process. When we are aware of and accept our feelings, we can let those feelings pass through us and not drag us down for too much time.
The next step is to carefully choose how you want to think about your situation and the situation of other families. Maybe now you are saying to yourself, “Who do you think you are?” Which leads to feelings of resentment and jealousy and then possibly showing up with an angry attitude. When we choose a new and more empowering way to think about something, we change how we feel and how we show up.
A more empowering thought process might be, “It hurts right now to see happy families but they aren’t the reason that I’m unhappy. I know that there will come a day, in the near future, in which I will feel happiness again.” When you say this to yourself, you will likely feel more hopeful and you will show up to life with more happiness and hope.
In the meantime, give yourself and others some grace while you allow yourself to grieve and ultimately recover from a very challenging time. Have faith that life gets better and almost all divorcees report to feeling much happier a few years after their divorce. Most of them go on to positive, powerful relationships.
Try to look for things that make you happy and hopeful–your kids, your family, good friends, personal growth, things to look forward to–the end of COVID!. Even small things that you bring you some joy will be helpful as you make your way through a challenging holiday season. You’ve got this! You’re not the first person to go through a divorce and have holiday bitterness and anger. Think about where you might be next year–I bet it’s in a much better place, where you are once again happy and excited to receive your friends’ and family’s holiday cards. I hope so!
Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D., CPC is a professional certified life and executive coach, psychologist, and professional speaker. She helps people tackle that “One day I’ll do this and then I’ll be happy” goal, today. You can reach Lisa at Lisa@lisakaplin.com or lisakaplin.com
Like this article? Check out, “Should I sent holiday cards even though I’m divorced?”