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Dealing with a Breakup and the Holidays

7191647_sThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Amy Margolis, MA, Registered ASW. 

When I talk to clients about facing the first holiday season after a breakup, the first thing I suggest is… “Take the Quotes off the Holiday”… translation: HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS. What does this mean? Let go of the image of “what it’s supposed to look like” and treat the day like any other.

I spoke with a client recently, who spent her first Thanksgiving without her abusive ex husband. She was invited to a cousins and her first impulse was to say “yes!” and breathe a sigh of relief. However, as she thought it over, she didn’t want to spend time with family, who had never been very supportive of her. She opted instead to enjoy some much needed sleep, do her laundry, watch movies and order in a great take-out meal. While she said the day didn’t feel like “Thanksgiving” she had a really nice, relaxing day to herself and was truly grateful.

I had a client a couple of years ago, whose wife left him suddenly in August after 21 years of marriage. Not wanting to deal with the grief, he jumped on Match.com and by Thanksgiving he was dating somebody great. He spent the holiday with her, her children and her extended family. He reported this was a big a mistake. Even though, he cared a lot for his new girlfriend, he realized you can’t just skip over grief and replace people. In retrospect, he wished he had spent the holiday doing something quiet.

The last client I will share about is a man, newly sober, who decided to wait on breaking up with his girlfriend until after the holidays. He spent Thanksgiving with her and her family. Afterwards he felt phony, guilty and bad about himself. He didn’t feel honest and this behavior almost triggered a relapse. He said he would have had a better day watching football alone at home. Waiting and not being truthful came with too high a price.

The holidays may not look like last year, they may not look how you want, and they may be painful. Remember, this holiday season is just a “snapshot in time.” Your life will not always look this way, feelings pass, and everyone goes through loss. I always tell my clients, if you are having a rough time, you may not be able to make it great, but you can definitely make it better. If you are dealing with a recent or impending breakup over the holidays, let go of expectations, be authentic and take good care of yourself!

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