The song "Blue Christmas" strikes a chord with many families and couples - and not just those who have broken up recently. Family celebrations at Thanksgiving or Christmas can be tough if the family you usually look forward to seeing won't be there. Whether your holiday separation is due to divorce, deployment, your adult child's new marriage balancing act or any other bumps on life's road, the first time you're apart for the holidays can be tough.
But not only can you get through it, you may even find yourself enjoying the new traditions that arise as you make new plans, noted psychotherapist Kathy McCoy in her blog post "Adult Children: Surviving the Holidays With or Without Them."
Consider these five strategies for making the best of the first time you must miss celebrating a holiday together:
Don't let a holiday apart overshadow the sweet bond you share
Regardless of how many times you've celebrated together or how many times you'll do it again in the future, it's good to remember that you'll probably never feel like you have enough time with family, no matter how this holiday turns out. "The time we all have with those we love never seems to be enough and never ceases to be precious," noted McCoy. "Instead of grieving dashed expectations, savor those moments you do share together, however brief or imperfect they may be."
Keep up the holiday spirit from a distance
Julie, who writes the blog Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, recommends building holiday spirit together even if you won't get to share the actual days in person. "Plan to Facetime or Skype as often as you can during this time of year," she said. "Even if you only chat for a few minutes, seeing one another or getting excited about the holidays together can help your mood."
Celebrate in a new way
McCoy shared the story of a divorced friend who is now often without the friends and family he used to enjoy holidays with. Instead of trying to recreate former traditions, he found renewed joy by volunteering at a local organization, helping to feed the homeless and low-income families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. "Creating new holiday traditions with friends who are in a similar situation can also chase away those holiday blues," added McCoy. "It can be a chance, with this new family of friends, to make completely new and different holiday memories."
Treat yourself to a trip
If you find yourself alone because you're suddenly single or because someone else has the kids for the holidays, sometimes the best idea is not to fight it at all. Instead of a solo or miniature version of your typical holiday celebrations, treat yourself to a holiday trip. McCoy quoted a friend who decided to head to Mexico instead of staying home alone: "If I'm home, I'll just be depressed and focused on the fact that I'm alone," she said. "By going to Mexico, it's a gift for me: warm beaches, great food, and a chance to celebrate my way."
Open your presents over Skype
To keep up at least a little holiday spirit with your missing loved one, open your presents over Skype, says the Soldier's Wife. In a similar vein, consider sharing Thanksgiving dessert together via Skype, or maybe a glass of wine.
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