I’m James McLintock, MA Clinical Psychology, and I am passionate about helping adults stabilize and recover from devastating wounds of divorce, separation, or the ending of a long-term relationship.
I specialize in Divorce Adjustment, co-facilitate Divorce Care workshops, and provide Divorce Adjustment Behavioral Health Therapy in private practice at Living Water Counseling in Carlsbad, California.
Christmas can be an emotionally charged time of year for all of us,butespecially for those who have experienced the loss of a marriage or long-term relationship. Some folks are in a season of recovery and feeling better about Christmas. Others not-so-much, and what was once a happy holiday filled with wonderful memories, has suddenly turned into a very difficult time of sadness.
If you are struggling this Christmas, here are some ways to survive the holidays:
1:Let’s first “normalize” what you are going through (remember in the video how it talked about “going through open-heart surgery”) --and with Christmas—a very highly emotionally charged time of the year--your heart is going through things that it was never intended to experience…so this Christmas, give your heart gifts of kindness, tender care, and mercy. In time it will heal. Just not today.
2:Remember that it’s okay if you are hurting
Never forget that your heart was not intended to experience the kind of pain that separation or divorce brings—especially at the holidays—so give yourself permission to feel whatever it is that you are feeling. It is common to feel like a “rubber band ball of emotions that bounces from feeling to feeling with no warning” (one minute happy, the next minute sad, the next minute anxious, the next minute okay, the next minute panicky, the next minute irritated, the next minute calm, the next minute devastated, the next minute hopeful…etc.). Be aware of being “ambushed” by your feelings. Give your heart the moment it needs to take its emotional walk.
3:Cry. Your heart is hurting.
Give yourself permission to cry. You may cry once and feel better. You may be led to tears throughout Christmas. Go for it. Notice how you will feel relief when you have finished crying—that your feelings were on overload and now that you have allowed yourself to cry, your feelings have stabilized.
4: Have a support team
If you are going to be with family on Christmas, tell someone whom you trust that you may be up and down with your emotions and that you have periods when you are overwhelmed with grief, and in those times that you might have tears in your eyes, or you may excuse yourself and go outside for some air, or go outside for a walk, or you may drive to a park and just sit for a while—and that—you’re okay and you will return—but that there may be times when you are sad.
5: Tell your trusted friends or family what you need from them - and know that they don’t know what to do, so help them. Here’s what worked for me: I’d ask my close circle to check in with me and ask me this question: “How can I be a friend to you right now?” Your support group does not have to worry about fixing you or saying quaint things to ease your emotions. Rather, just check in with you and just be close. There is such sweet relief when you know that you are free to be you and that they have your back.
6: There’s no time-clock ticking on when you will start feeling better
Everyone heals at their own rate—and healing from a broken heart is going to take some time.
7: Christmas is “a Speed-Bump Day”, and all you have to do is make it until midnight
You may feel the heavy emotional burden of the holiday—so keep your eyes on midnight. You may feel like you are standing still or merely crawling up hill all day long. See how you feel at midnight when it feels like the Christmas light switch is flipped—when radio and TV ceases with holiday music and Christmas programs, and the world goes back to normal. See if you take a deep breath through both nostrils at midnight and exhale and feel better. Remember---Christmas can be that ‘speed bump day’ that takes forever to drive over. But at midnight, it’s all downhill.
8: Reward yourself for making it through the day and night
Do something nice for you! Be kind to you!
9: Do you want to be right—or—do you want to be happy?
Consider: Assign your own meaning to the holidays.Get clarity on what you want your holiday season to be about. Focus on figuring out what holiday experiences are meaningful to you personally—consider those things that fill you up with positive feelings, versus those that leave you feeling empty and depleted. Make plans. Don't wait to be invited to do something, rather, invite your friends to join you. Take control of your experience and embrace the spirit of the season in ways that are meaningful and fun to you. Can you find gratitude for what is good now in your life? If there's a tradition from your past that you want to carry on, yay!! Do you want to start new traditions? Go for it!! Do only what brings you, and those very close to you, joy. What can you do so that you can feel the magic of the holiday season? Can you replace resentment with gratitude? Can you volunteer at an orphanage, foster care, homeless shelter, animal shelter, church, and hospital? Bringing joy to others not only brings others joy, but places my life in perspective.
10: Call a counselor!
Make an appointment and go talk to a professionally trained therapist who can help you “process the process” and walk with you on this very difficult journey. Don’t go it alone. Let people in who can see the light of hope for you when you cannot.
Jim McLintock, MA Clinical Psychology, MFTI 74183 specializes in divorce adjustment and is a Marriage & Family Therapy Intern at Living Water Counseling Center in Carlsbad, CA.
To contact Jim, email him at [email protected] or call his confidential cell: 760-212-0444.
To learn more about the counseling team at Living Water Counseling Center, check out www.LivingWaterCA.com.
We have appointments available and would love to hear from you!