Hi all — I know Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for many of us. I’ve recently connected with a group of divorced Dads and am seeing my own feelings replicated so often among them. I would encourage you this Christmas Season to take some of these suggestions and run with them to keep you from the fetal position on the couch for days at a time. And yes, I’ve been there. But in the future — you don’t have to be.
Some of these are predicated on the fact that you would have a group of friends to do stuff with this holiday season. If you don’t feel like you have this, here’s your first step. Do a Friend Audit. Make a list of all the friends you have. Doesn’t matter if they are just acquaintances, work friends, relatives, or people you’d like to get to know (keep potential romantic interests in the friend zone for this audit). Keep at it until you have a list of about 15-20 people. Great if there’s more.
Then do a Loneliness Forecast. Get out your calendar. There’s sure to be stuff there already for Christmas parties for work or family events, etc. You should be okay keeping busy there, but look for holes in the calendar. These would be days where you don’t have anything going or evenings you know will be hard because maybe you have traditions you used to do with your kids that you won’t be doing this year (like on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day). Note which days these might be and start to plan things and find friends from your list that you could invite. The key here is to anticipate the difficult days ahead and plan accordingly.
Here’s reality. Virtually every single or divorced and all alienated parents are looking for friends and stuff to do around the holidays. People are off work, there’s that evil liar “nostalgia” that works around the corners of your mind and there’s just plain loneliness. So with all that in mind…
Jim’s suggestions for not letting Christmas get you down.
- Look for other Singles, lonely people you know and divorced dads/moms and schedule things to do on Christmas Day. One of the dads in my group has a Christmas breakfast tradition with his mom and invited our whole group. I think 10 guys are going. I wish I could be there, but I’m spending Christmas away at my parents. Another friend has invited the crew out to see a movie that afternoon. Over Thanksgiving I fed the homeless and went to a pub to watch a game with a buddy and his kids. Both great distractions and made for a great day.
- Spend time with the rest of your family. Go visit your brother, sister, parents, nieces, nephews, grandma etc. I’ve done this the last 3 years and probably won’t always do it, but it’s great for me right now. They live on the other side of the country, and yeah, it costs money, but it’s good for my soul.
- Find Christmas events to go to with a group of friends. Christmas plays, musicals, skating nights, Christmas parties, etc. Do as much of this stuff you can. Getting out around other people is essential for your sanity this time of year. Staying home alone will cause depression, discouragement and hopelessness. Know yourself well enough and plan ahead for this.
- Keep expectations low. Don’t build yourself up into a big frenzy that this is the year you’ll hear from the kids. This also helps if you do hear from them — you don’t want to gush and cry and get all weird on them if that happens, you just want to be gracious and kind and loving and the parent you’ve always been.
- Mix it up. Plan a date for one night (find someone online or through a friend, it can be a first date, but it gets you out and mingling). Do something with the dudes one day (paintball? Watching a bowl game?). Find a thing to do with a mixed crowd — friend Christmas party, or Karaoke night, New Year’s Eve on the town, etc. Don’t just invite the same friends, you’ve got a list — use it.
- Serve. Nothing helps you get in the Christmas spirit better than doing something for the less fortunate around us. Do the white Envelope thing (google it). Serve at a soup kitchen. Get two guys together and deliver Angel Tree Presents for kids whose parents are incarcerated. I did this with two buddies and it was incredible.
- Perform. I have been an “extra” along with 150 of my closest friends two years for my Church’s Christmas Program. There’s 15 shows over 2 weeks and you spend huge amounts of time together. It’s a great place to make friends and feel like you’re part of a family. Anytime you do a show with people, there’s bonding. Jump in. Do something you haven’t done in a long time. Be daring. You are a better person for doing it.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you who read this. I hope I’ve helped in a small way to make it more bearable for you all!