Separation and divorce makes the festive seasons even more difficult: seeing other families having their reunions and remembering the times past can be excruciating. Elena Fernandez, an English teacher and part-time DJ with Gold 90FM, shares with us some ways that have helped her to cope and she hope it will help others too.
Set realistic expectations.
Accept that things are going to be different and it will take time to get into a new routine. Be honest with friends and family about what you can and cannot do and be firm with your boundaries.
Have a network of friends to support you.
Everyone goes through highs and lows. Being able to turn to people in my support group and be honest, no matter how raw the emotions, has made a world of difference. Listening to the sharing among members of the group has been really cathartic and made me realise my situation isn’t that bad.
Acknowledge your emotions.
Be honest with how you are feeling and know that it is OK to feel not OK. Give yourself the space to grieve but don’t throw a pity party. Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd, always comforts and assures me that everything will be OK in time.
Know that it is OK to leave gatherings early.
If unwelcome memories or extreme emotions surface during gatherings, have the freedom to thank the host and leave early. Cut yourself some slack. Spend some time with God and pour your heart out to Him.
Learn to enjoy me time.
At a time when everyone is together and celebrating, being alone can be harder to bear. Use the time to get to know yourself better and reconnect with God. Learn to go on a date with yourself and God. You might just discover something new!
Have a go-to list of things that lift your mood.
Read your favourite scripture passage, listen to a special song, or hold a treasured item. Whatever comforts and lifts your spirits, make sure you can reach for it when you need a boost. We all need a pick-me-up sometimes!
Be in tune with your kids.
It’s tempting to try to cheer your kids up with extra expensive presents to compensate for a missing parent. But think again. Is that what they truly need now.
Give gifts of joy.
I make little craft jars stuffed with joyous messages such as verses like Jeremiah 29:11 or motivational quotes from people like Helen Keller and Martin Luther King, and give a jar to each of my BBBs – the people I consider Beautiful, Blessed and Beloved. They remind me of God’s goodness and help me to be grateful for what I have.
Draw close to God.
Through retreats I learned to love myself. I find solace in scriptures and they have been my constant companion. At one retreat around the time of my separation, I experienced a truly transformative spiritual experience. As I recited prayers of forgiveness, a force that felt like a bright light entered my body and pulled out the pain in my chest. I felt amazingly light and glowing afterwards.
Article originally appeared on Archdiocesan Commission for the Family.