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How should I approach Christmas without my children?

Our guest blogger, Kelly Luisa Bagshaw, is a Divorce Coach and accredited counsellor and psychotherapist. Kelly helps people navigate the often-challenging journey of separation and come out on the other side feeling empowered and ready to start a new chapter in their lives. She offers a unique perspective combining years of theoretical knowledge and clinical expertise with her personal experience of separation. We are thrilled to have her share her insights.

How can I let go of how things used to be?

There are many ways to approach Christmas, special days and birthdays as a separated family. Remaining open and flexible will be the key to avoiding it becoming contentious.

The truth is, this will be a negotiation, and it may require you to hold on a little less tightly to past traditions and adjust for the present and future. It is very natural to struggle with change. Letting go can be incredibly challenging, and it’s ok to experience a sense of loss. You may find feelings such as anger, resentment and injustice can arise.

Acknowledging such feelings as valid is important. However, allowing those feelings to pass and trying not to make decisions from this place is key. There are some things you can try to help you move on.

  • Writing an angry letter and destroying it can be a helpful way of giving voice to those feelings and removing some of the intensity.
  • When negotiating Christmas and other special occasions, try to provide yourself with space before responding to any requests.
  • Ask yourself what you are holding on to and why you find it hard to let it go. What particular meaning does this have for you personally? Are you getting stuck on wanting to ‘win’ or not wanting to give ground? What are you telling yourself it means about you if you relinquish?
  • Consider an alternate perspective or reframe things for yourself.

Whatever your circumstances, none of this is easy. These strategies are skills to master. Going through a separation and divorce can give rise to a time of personal development and healing. It forces us to stop and reflect on the past and learn more about ourselves.

How can I feel positive about Christmas without my kids?

Ok, so to lay some cards on the table, I have skin in this game. I’ve been separated for five years, and this will be the first time my kids spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with their dad.

And to be honest, I am feeling pretty good about it.

The key for me was to reset my expectations around what Christmas looks like. We’re sold an ideal that is, more often than we realise, not the reality for so many people around Christmas time.

To reset my expectations, I needed a plan to bolster myself and be intentional about how I wanted to spend my time away from the children. One of the things I did was journal how I wanted Christmas to look for me.

I asked myself the following questions.

  • Do I want to be around people, and if so, why?
  • What stories am I telling myself about what being alone at Christmas means?
  • What needs of my own have I been neglecting, and how might I use this time to meet them?
  • How might I experience a sense of peace, joy & connection at this time?
  • What are some of the traditions I enjoy about Christmas that I can continue to participate in for myself?

Doing this allowed me to see the time apart as a gift to appreciate and enjoy. It is all too easy to narrow our focus to see only what we are missing out on and miss all the other wonderful things that we get to experience.

Christmas is more than one day. There is so much to enjoy and share with your children in and around Christmas: end-of-year parties, Christmas carols, Santa visits, shopping for and wrapping the gifts, moving the elf (grrrr), decorating the tree, writing letters to Santa, making plans to visit friends and family in the holidays… the list goes on.

The point is we have a choice: focus on what we are missing out on or rejoice in all the things we have.

How can I manage my emotional health at Christmas?

This isn’t to dismiss the sadness and loss that comes with letting go of our dreams of what a family Christmas looks like. Allowing yourself to sit with and acknowledge those feelings is important and it is ok if you want to spend a little time grieving.

There are some things you can try to help manage your emotional health & wellbeing.

Avoid the scroll, comparing your situation to other people’s Christmas highlights reel is an exercise in self-punishment and does nothing to serve you.

Be honest about how your Christmas’ have looked in the past, especially in the last couple of years before separation and throw away those rose-tinted specs!

Don’t focus on the time you’re missing out on – focus on the time you will spend with your children and make that special.
If the opinions of family or friends aren’t helpful, don’t be afraid to put boundaries around contact or topics of conversation that aren’t up for discussion.
If being alone feels too scary right now, reach out and ask for help.

Speaking to a counsellor or Separation/Divorce Coach who can support you to understand your experience and guide you forwards is an option that may help when difficult experiences like this come up.

Speaking to a divorce coach, counsellor or separation consultant who can support you in understanding your experience and guide you forwards is an option that may help when difficult experiences like this come up.

Kelly Luisa Bagshaw is a Network Member with The Separation Guide. Speak to our Separation Consultant to book an initial free chat with Kelly.
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The information in our resources is general only. Consider getting in touch with a professional adviser if you need legal, financial or well-being support.