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How Diet Changes Can Help You Manage Divorce Stress

When contemplating or going through divorce, stress becomes part of your daily life. Did you realize what you eat can help you to manage it? Our Wellness Expert, Gretchen Ferraro, recently wrote a helpful blog that provides information on ways you can help control depression and stress with food and vitamins. After reading that, you may have wondered if you had accidentally stumbled upon some health site or scientific article. Whatever the case, it may have been hard to immediately connect with the topic of divorce. I would have thought so too when I was struggling through the effects of an unhappy marriage and divorce. I wish I knew then what I know now.

I’ve been there…

Depression hits me from time to time, and it has for years. I realize now it is very connected to the stressors in my life. I was in an incredibly dark period the last two years of my marriage. I would go through spurts of taking really good care of myself, but I mostly chose to numb with foods that made me feel good at the moment. I’d also regularly indulge in wine — not to excess, but definitely a glass or two to take the edge off. Plus, I got a prescription for Xanax toward the end for a quick “chill out” when things got really bad. This isn’t something I would take often because I didn’t like how it made me feel, but it sure helped calm my body during tumultuous moments where it all felt like too much to even bear. If you’ve experienced this, you know exactly what I mean.

I have been out of that marriage for two years, and I am so much happier. Life is far from perfect. It can be incredibly difficult, to be perfectly honest. Like everyone, my life is full of stressors. It involves everything from choosing to create my own business, the financial pressures of not having a steady income without another income to rely upon, parenting alone with two small children, acclimating to single life and dealing with the ups and downs of romantic relationships. I am very proud of how I manage this most of the time. But sometimes, it just gets to be too much. When too many things are not flowing in the right direction at one time, I simply shut down.

I do try to take decent care of myself, but admittedly it’s not the best. I especially fall down when I am experiencing significant stress. At those times, I go from eating fairly well and exercising at least semi-regularly to sustaining on carbs and wine. The workout clothes stay tucked in my drawer. This doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. Unfortunately, the responsibilities of having two kids and a business don’t go away when I find myself overwhelmed, depleted and with nothing more to give to anyone or anything. Out of desperation, I took drastic measures.

The Cleanse Experiment

After an unbelievably stressful month, I realized I had gained 5 pounds due to stress munching and comfort-food numbing with every carb I could get my hands on. I had been trying to just get through each day instead of facing it with clarity and focus. I didn’t even feel like myself and certainly wasn’t the person I aspired to be.

So, I decided to detox body and my life. I started the Conscious Cleanse, designed by Jo Schaalman and Julie Pelaez. It’s a 14-day program that eliminates everything processed, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, soy, gluten and even many fruits and vegetables. The goal of the program is to remove “triggers” from your diet that can cause inflammation and irritability. It’s a good reset for your body, with the side benefit of dropping some pounds. How could you not when you eliminate just about your entire diet! I have never tried something this drastic. I have a history of not sticking to any diet, but I felt really committed this time because my goal wasn’t to look better in my jeans — it was to actually feel better and feel more in control of my life and mood.

I had chosen a time to start when life would be “manageable”. But life decided to give me some serious “tests”. It was my week where I would have my kids for three days instead of four, and there was nothing major going on — I could focus a bit more on me. Well, Day 1 is when I found myself at Children’s Hospital with my son’s terrible ear infection. Then I was trying to manage taking care of him while working for the next couple of days. Nothing stressful about that!

On Day 3, I woke up to a waterfall in my kitchen due to a malfunctioning toilet upstairs. Water ran all night, flooded the bathroom (which, of course, is carpet), the entire hallway, ran through the ceiling into the kitchen and then into the basement. Are you kidding me?! I took a deep breath and worked the problem. After I got the kids to school that morning, I wanted coffee and a bagel like crazy. I could barely handle the craving, but I staved it off and had my smoothie. Later that day, I had a little misstep that injured my wrist, which made it hard to drive, type and chop those veggies I needed to eat. It was also tough to carry those 150 boxes of Girl Scout cookies I picked up for my daughter to sell. Nothing like having stacks of those irresistible goodies in my garage to test some willpower!

Something clicked for me within a few days. I felt more in control of my life. Instead of allowing stressful situations to drive me into behaviors that aren’t good for me, I took control and made better decisions. I chose to nourish my body instead of indulging in something comforting for the moment that really wasn’t so good for me. After reading Getting Divorced? What to Eat to Beat the Blues and Boost Your Mood, I learned that I was actually incorporating the foods and nutrients that Gretchen had recommended.

I had stepped up my vitamins, folic acid and magnesium. I was having a smoothie for breakfast every morning that contained spinach, kale, blueberries, flax and coconut oil. I was eating a ton of salmon, greens, and munching on pumpkin seeds. I started looking forward to my new favorite snack of half of an avocado. I replaced my Diet Coke and coffee with water and non-caffeinated teas. The wine bottles remained closed and the popcorn maker stayed in the cabinet. I was very proud of myself for how I stuck to this program. It was definitely hard at times, and I must admit that I had a couple of cheat moments.

I also took this time to focus on the quality of my thoughts and taking care of my spiritual self. I was meditating for 15 minutes each morning and writing in my gratitude journal, which always shifts energy to a better place. In her book, “Crazy, Sexy Diet”, Kris Carr said that “…when I dumped the junk and aligned myself with my higher purpose, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.” I got a glimpse of this. I felt stronger, more focused and started reclaiming my power. I was setting appropriate boundaries with people and in situations that were not in alignment with my values. I found it easier to make better choices in all aspects of my life. I stayed more in control of my emotions in the most trying of circumstances.

I say all of this not to advocate engaging in such a drastic program, but rather to encourage you to take some small steps to nourish your body and your mind. Adding foods that truly feed your body and a few additional vitamins will even out and even elevate your mood. Combine that with a little exercise to magnify the positive effects! I know it’s so hard when you are in the depths of depression and struggling to get through the unwinding of an unhappy marriage. One day at a time. One choice at a time. Focus on nourishing yourself instead of numbing. Doing lots of little things right will make a major impact on how you feel physically, emotionally and simply how you feel about yourself. If you found this helpful, please learn more about Untangle The Knot can further support you through your divorce journey.


Getting Divorced? What to Eat to Beat the Blues and Boost Your Mood

Let’s face it: If you’re contemplating divorce or going through divorce, it’s going to affect your mood. You may be irritable, stressed, emotional, angry, and, on some level, depressed. But what you eat may be able to help the situation — research has shown that there is a relationship between the food you eat and your mood. And no, I’m not talking about Ben & Jerry’s, chocolate chip cookies or a pile of French fries. While these choices may offer a quick source of comfort, they lead to a fleeting boost of energy, then a crash in blood sugar and unwanted pounds. I’m talking about food that actually makes you feel good because of the specific nutrients it contains or the steady energy it gives you; foods that help you stay focused and balanced, so that you can handle anything that comes your way.

In terms of what foods you should be eating to improve your mood and alleviate depression and stress while you’re going through divorce, it comes down to neurotransmitters, nutrients and macronutrients. Let’s break that down.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in your brain that communicate information throughout your brain and body. Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are all neurotransmitters that are thought to play a role in helping to regulate your mood:

  • Serotonin, which helps boost your mood, is made from tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in fish, eggs, chicken, turkey and other meats.
  • Dopamine is one of the most powerful stimulating neurotransmitters, and it is converted from the amino acid tyrosine, which is found in almonds, avocados, dairy products, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
  • Norepinephrine is another stimulating neurotransmitter, which is also converted from tyrosine.

Here are some important nutrients that may affect your mood:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids help with alleviating depression and other mood disorders. Grass-fed beef, salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, flax seeds, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables are all rich in omega-3s.
  • Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps protect your brain and fights inflammation, which may cause depression. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene.
  • Many other antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have also been associated with decreasing depression. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin, and they’ve been linked to all kinds of positive health outcomes, including sharper cognition. But all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress. Dark chocolate (yay!) is rich in two types of antioxidants called polyphenols and flavonols.
  • Folate, which is a B vitamin found in beans, citrus and dark green vegetables like spinach, affects mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Asparagus is also a good source.
  • Magnesium is a mineral that may help lower your stress level. Spinach is also high in magnesium.
  • Zinc is another mineral that has been shown to have a positive effect on depression and stress and is found in meat, poultry, oysters and nuts.

Picking the right macronutrients is also important:

  • Protein helps moderate your blood sugar, meaning you don’t experience fluctuations in your energy levels or uncontrollable hunger. Focus on lean meats (steak, poultry and seafood), eggs, tofu, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits and whole grains have fiber that help keep your blood sugar steady. The processed carbohydrates found in sugar, desserts, fried foods and refined grains could make you irritable and cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.
  • Fat, as in monounsaturated, polyunsaturated (including those depression-busting omega-3s) and even saturated fats are essential to healthy brain function. In addition to the foods rich in omega-3s, olive oil, canola and coconut oil, avocados and nuts and seeds are all good sources of these fats. Avoid trans fats, which are found in processed and fried food.

And don’t forget — eating small, frequent meals can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and give you a constant source of energy while keeping your appetite in check so you don’t succumb to your cravings for the not-so-comforting comfort foods.

With all that being said, don’t beat yourself up if you have a face to face run-in with a couple pieces of pizza or one too many cookies. Enjoy the moment, go for a walk or do something active (also shown to beat depression and elevate mood) and make sure your next meal is full of good-mood foods. Many more tips are available to you throughout the physical sections of Untangle The Knot.

Learn more about how Untangle The Knot can support you on your journey through divorce.

Gretchen Ferraro, UTK Editor and Wellness Expert


10 Things You Can Look Forward to When You are Single

Let’s face it: Divorce is a heavy and depressing topic. There’s no way of getting around that. But, there is a bright side. Being single for the right reasons, versus staying with someone for the wrong reasons, opens up a whole new world.

First, let’s consider the bad things you lose — all the minor annoyances that added up, from the toilet seat that was always left up or waiting on your spouse while she changed three times before leaving the house. The passive-aggressive behavior, fights about money, those certain family members you dreaded spending holidays with. Gone! All Gone!

Now, let’s talk about what you gain:

  1. Kid-free time. Of course, you love your kids with all your heart. And, at first, it may be hard to get used to not having them around every day or weekend. And then… Imagine waking up on a Saturday morning and having absolutely no obligations until Monday. The weekend is yours. You can sleep in, go to the gym, get a pedicure, meet a friend for coffee, take a long bike ride, hit the town or stay in. You’re not transporting kids to play dates or birthday parties. The movie Frozen is not on constant replay on your TV, and you can go out to eat in sophisticated adult establishments where mac and cheese and chicken fingers are nowhere to be found on the menu. You don’t even need to find a sitter!
  2. Your own money. If you want to buy another pair of black shoes to go with the other 12 pairs in your collection, there’s no one to give you a hard time about it. New golf clubs? No problem. Of course, this is not to say you should go on a crazy post-divorce shopping spree without paying careful attention to your budget, but, the bottom line is, it’s your budget. No one else’s.
  3. Self-discovery. The extra time in your life allows you to explore hobbies you’ve always wanted to try. You have the chance to discover — or rediscover– who you truly are outside of the confines of a marriage that may have defined you and your life for so long. When you open yourself up to finding your true self and to the possibilities of what could be, doors will open all around you.
  4. Freedom. This is your life. And now this is your opportunity to live it how you would like. During your process of self-discovery, you may find there are things you want to change. Have you been dreaming about a career change? Do you want to travel more? You have the freedom to achieve these goals.
  5. The “spark”. Remember those butterflies in your stomach and the thrill of the chase (or being chased)? The excitement of getting to know someone new and all the milestones that come with that, including the first kiss, weekends away, feeling like someone is genuinely interested in what you have to say, and yes… the sex. When you are living in a bad marriage, those special moments get lost in the daily grind of arguments and tension.
  6. It’s your home. Decorate how you want. Make it your safe place in the world. Bless someone else by giving away anything that doesn’t “fit” into your new world. I remember bringing decor into my new home from the old, and it no longer fit who I was. Out it went! While I still have furniture to buy, rooms to paint and walls to fill — my home feels so comfortable to me!
  7. Watch what you want. Ever get those snarky comments for watching football, Fox News or Grey’s Anatomy? The remotes are yours with no color commentary. Enough said.
  8. Be a better parent. When you’re in a difficult marriage, it can be so hard to be the parent you want to be. So much of your energy is being drained within your marriage, and it’s common for your relationship with your child to suffer. Parenting alone gives you an opportunity to be truly present with your kids and create a more connected relationship.
  9. You decide the menu. Couples often have different preferences when it comes to food. One person may be trying to live a healthier lifestyle, while the other is bringing home doughnuts. This can easily lead to resentment on both sides. You can now eat in peace!
  10. You can take off your mask. No more pretending to be the happy couple and to be somebody and something that you are not. You finally get to live life on your terms and in your truth.

Not being part of a couple can definitely take some getting used to. I’m not going to lie — you may feel lonely at times. And sad. Even unsafe. But, it’s pretty normal to have those feelings in a bad marriage as well. Start embracing the simple pleasures of single life and you’ll discover how good it feels to find yourself again.

What are you most looking forward to about being single?

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Surviving Valentine’s Day; During and After Divorce

If you’re divorced, contemplating divorce or going through divorce, the pink and red decorations, candy and cards that have overtaken an entire aisle in the grocery store (and the airwaves) as soon as the Christmas decorations disappeared could be enough to make you want to tell Cupid and his minions to shove it. But before you get caught up in all of that, take a moment to reflect on past Valentine’s Days; were they really that great? As my marriage was in its final chapters,  I remember standing in that dreaded card aisle trying to pick the perfect one that defined my marriage or relationship with my now ex-husband… I sure wasn’t feeling the cards that said “you’re the love of my life” or “I can’t wait to tear your clothes off”. I’d shuffle through my options, becoming more and more depressed, until I found a card that was blank inside with a cute dog on the front. There. That would work for now. Sound familiar? I’m sure I’m not alone in this one!

So, it’s quite possible that your past Valentine’s Days as a couple weren’t all that great either. Instead of succumbing to this overly commercialized quasi-holiday, and wallowing in misery because Hallmark thinks you should be spending the day on a bed of roses, serenaded by verses of original poetry, followed up by an extravagant dinner and jewelry that costs more than three month’s salary, do what makes you happy. As the saying goes, being alone for the right reasons is far better than being with someone for the wrong reasons. Use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to love yourself. If you have kids, arrange a dinner date with them at their favorite restaurant or celebrate with another fun activity you all love to do. If you’re on your own, embrace the positives of that. Sleep in and pamper yourself with a massage or pedicure. Buy yourself a present. Get a workout in. Grab some friends and have an anti-Valentine’s Day dinner or brunch. All of this applies to men going through divorce as well. Declare your independence from Hallmark (and that dreaded card aisle), grab some buddies and hit the slopes or the links, or enjoy a night out on the town.

Whatever you decide to do (and it’s completely within your right to do absolutely nothing or wallow just a teeny tiny little bit), use this day as an opportunity to treat yourself right—to truly love yourself and the person you have become. Visit Untangle the Knot’s Physical and Spirit sections for ways you can get active and nourish your body and soul– all are excellent ways to pamper yourself from the inside out. You can also treat yourself to a session with our Life Coach, for guidance on how you can live your best post-divorce life.


5 Types of Unhappy Marriages – Which One is You?

If you are living in an unhappy marriage, you are not alone. Millions of people are right there with you. Everything may look picture perfect on the outside, but the story is very different behind closed doors. It could be only one of you who wants out, or it may be both of you. Nobody is moving forward for any number of reasons, but most probably come down to fear. It could be fear of the effect of divorce on the children, hurting your spouse, what your parents will think, what your friends will think, money, your sense of security, your feelings of responsibility, your identity, and the list goes on. It’s completely understandable, although I’d challenge you to question how much weight you want to give the opinions of others in your quest for your personal happiness and fulfillment.

The last chapters of an unhappy marriage can look many different ways, but the descriptions below covers most. Does one of them describe you?

  1. Living in Limbo – You’re unhappy and have been for a long time, for months or even years. Something is keeping you stuck. Maybe you are waiting for an event to making leaving okay, to keep you from being the bad guy. This is a time to dig deep and do some self-exploration to figure out what is preventing you from making the decision.
  2. Living in Mutual Misery – You’re both openly unhappy. There is little to no emotional or physical intimacy. You may fight often and the “D” word is thrown around. You may not fight much at all anymore because you just don’t care. It’s an unhappy and non-functioning relationship, but it’s so hard to know when to divorce. If you are staying together for the kids, chances are good that you are doing more harm than good by staying together in this situation.
  3. You are Blindsided – You thought everything was fine. Then, BAM! Your world was shattered. He is unhappy and wants out. She had an affair. Something happened that just shook your world to its core. Now you are trying to figure out what to do next.
  4. It Wasn’t Your Decision – You may have openly discussed problems with your spouse, or maybe just knew something was wrong. Regardless, yesterday you were married and today you are starting on the path to divorce. You could be shocked, hurt and angry that you didn’t say it first as to not be the one who was left, or you could even be feeling a bit of relief.
  5. You Decided – You’ve made the decision to divorce. You may or may not have broken the news to your spouse yet. You want to cause as little pain as possible for everyone and have an amicable parting. Doing this the best way possible for the kids is of the utmost importance.

Untangle The Knot does not advocate for divorce. We have a sincere desire for people to choose a happy and fulfilling life, inside or outside of their marriage. We believe people are best served by trying to improve their marriages before opting for divorce. However, sometimes divorce is the right choice. Check out our new Contemplating Divorce section on Untangle The Knot. This is completely free content to guide you through some things to think about while making this incredibly difficult decision. If one of the previous categories described you, sign up for access to Untangle The Knot to receive information on specific steps you can take to move forward and get unstuck. Just one single step forward may open the door to the life you want to life.

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New Year, New You: 5 Wellness Tips for Coping with Divorce

As you welcome the new year, it’s also a time to reflect upon the past year. If you’re on this site, most likely a lot of your thoughts center on the state of your relationship–the good, the bad, the ugly. You could be thinking about when to divorce or going through it, but now it’s time to look toward the future. Your New Year’s resolutions and goals may involve some very hefty, life-changing decisions. The term “New Year, New You” brings on an entirely different meaning; life as you know it may be evolving into something brand new. But while you’re dealing with all this “stuff”, don’t forget to remember the most important thing: taking care of yourself.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, maybe eating an occasional vegetable or two and moving your body, you are making it that much more difficult to tackle the big decisions in your future. It is so easy for your physical health to decline when the stress level increases, but this is a time of building strength–inner strength and physical strength. As you think about your resolutions and goals for 2015, be sure to include some that will help you stay on track physically to help you in coping with divorce. Here are five ideas:

  1. Sign up for an exercise class–this is a great way to get motivated about exercise in a group setting.
  2. If you’re already working out regularly, challenge yourself. Sign up for an adventure race, 5K, 10K, half-marathon or more.
  3. Cut back on fast food. It’s expensive and adds inches to your waistline.
  4. Get technical. Invest in one of the many fitness trackers available. Many will track your steps, sleeping habits and heart rate–all of these will help you stay motivated and on top of your fitness goals.
  5. Drink up. Water, that is. Try to get eight glasses of water a day. Keep a water bottle with you at all times.

Take a moment to get inspired by these ideas, and brainstorm additional ways you can truly take care of yourself physically during a time when you need to be your strongest. Many more tips and additional helpful information about the importance of physical health during this pivotal time in your life is available with your Untangle The Knot subscription — learn more!

Gretchen Ferraro, UTK Editor and Wellness Expert


Are You “Faking It” Through the Holidays?

You know who you are… You are putting on a happy face and carrying on with your holiday routine. Cookies are baked, cards with the picture of the happy family have been mailed, you’ve attended the work and neighborhood parties, and now it is time for the actual holiday. You’ve done well to this point, but here’s where the rubber can hit the road and the proverbial mask falls off. Extended family has arrived, you and your spouse are spending more time together since you’re both taking time off during the holidays, you’re running around buying last-minute gifts, wrapping, preparing for the holiday meals, putting together toys and all of the other usual odds and ends. Holidays are stressful under the best of circumstances, but is so much more difficult when your marriage is on the rocks and you are just trying to put on the happy face.

And The Oscar Goes To…

I know this feeling all too well. I was absolutely that person, and I know many others who are in the same boat. If this sounds like you, trust that you are not alone! So many people play this part, and some play it for many years. I believe I’m a contender for the “faking it” Oscar. My last “married” Christmas was interesting, to say the least. We were a month away from our divorce being finalized, I had just purchased a new house, we were still living together as we didn’t want to tell the kids until after the holidays, nobody outside of our family and a couple of really close friends knew we were divorcing, and both mothers were staying in our home over Christmas. I still baked the cookies, went to the neighborhood parties and did all of my “duties”. Even though that was only two years ago, I can barely remember it. Probably for good reasons! This was “faking it” at its finest!

The First Christmas

Last year was my first Christmas being single again. I ignored the regular routine and did whatever I needed to just get through it. I think I was so overwhelmed by not having my kids for Thanksgiving or Christmas Day that I numbed out a bit for a few weeks. I ignored the Christmas cards – outgoing and incoming. I remember the feeling I had the last time I sent out Christmas cards. It was a card with our family picture on it — it looked picture perfect even though we were a mess. This was inauthenticity at its best. I felt like a fraud. A few weeks ago, I actually found a stack of unopened cards from last year in my Christmas boxes. I don’t think I was ready to face the pictures of the happy families. It was a pretty lonely feeling.

What a Difference A Year Makes

This year, I decided to be all in again. I had family pictures taken with the kids for the cards. I debated on sending out our family picture, or just one of the kids. I chose to use a picture with all three of us because that’s what felt right, and I feel great sharing that! I scrubbed my mailing list and deleted the names who belonged to my ex, or that I just didn’t feel I wanted to connect with anymore. Our list had gotten so long and had more casual acquaintances than real friends. More inauthenticity. I added new people who I am grateful have come into my life over the last couple of years. I took the extra time to write notes to people I haven’t spoken to in quite awhile. This year, I feel really good about sending the Christmas cards — even though they will be showing up closer to New Year’s Eve!

I have found that I also have a different perspective on the cards I receive. I definitely receive less than I used to because I was obviously scrubbed off of others’ lists, but the cards I do receive have so much more meaning. They are from those who are really in my life in a meaningful way. This feels so much more authentic to me. The pictures of the picture-perfect families no longer bother me. I am happy for those who are happy and feel honored to be in their lives. I do know that some of them are “faking it”, as they have confided in me — this tends to happen when one has gone through divorce. For those people, I appreciate how they are feeling and hope they will find their way to a happier place.

If you are one of those people, here are some thoughts to help you keep your sanity through the holidays:

  1. Carve out time for things you truly enjoy that isn’t intertwined with the pressure. Have lunch with a friend, bake some cookies, zone out to a football game – whatever it is. Decompress.
  2. Identify your triggers and decide in advance how you will respond instead of having the emotional reaction. You know what they are — it could be something your spouse says or how they act, your mother-in-law’s critical tone, whatever it is that typically throws you into an argument or tears. Be conscious of that and decide that you will not engage and just let it roll off of you when it occurs. You’ll instantly feel just a little better that you didn’t allow yourself to get dragged into the normal muck.
  3. Watch the alcohol. This is the time to eat, drink and be merry, but too much alcohol added to holiday festivities that include an unhappy couple is a recipe for disaster. Even if others are drinking too much and the hurtful words start flowing, your clear head will help you see it for what it is and avoid disaster.
  4. Focus on creating a wonderful holiday for your children. Be present with them so you can fully enjoy the precious moments.
  5. Get some exercise – it simply makes people feel better and feel more grounded. Even just taking the dog for a short walk every day will do wonders for your sanity!
  6. Remember to practice gratitude. Consciously think or write about at least a few things, no matter how small, for which you are grateful. This will automatically elevate your mood at least a bit!

Most importantly, set a strong intention to not be a member of the “faking it” camp next year. If there is any hope, work on fixing your marriage. Visit the Untangle The Knot Contemplating Divorce section for completely free information to help you through your decision.  Once you make a conscious decision that “faking it” is no longer acceptable, an authentic and happier life will be waiting for you. It could be waiting to be unearthed within your marriage, or may ultimately be found down an entirely different path. Whatever the case, it’s worth the journey to find the life you want to be living and to be “faking it” no more.


Divorced or Separated? 6 Tips for Surviving Your First Holiday

I’m staring right down the barrel of my second holiday season as a divorced person. I’ve been bracing for it since I saw the first pumpkins at the grocery store. This is the season of family and friends and creating memories Norman Rockwell-style. It’s a much different story when you are newly separated or divorced. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s are coming at you and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. If you could borrow Dorothy’s red shoes to click your heels three times and be transported to January 2nd, you would!

Thanksgiving was always “my holiday”, and I loved it. I loved cooking delicious food and creating a warm experience for family and friends. I would prepare food for days and make sure the linens were freshly pressed — everything had to look perfect. I loved sitting in my dining room the night before, looking at my dining room table set with my wedding crystal and china sparkling in the dimly lit room. This was the moment when I would happily anticipate what was to come the next day. Reality rarely lived up to this feeling, however, especially toward the end of my marriage. There was always a lot of goodness in the day, topped off by too much stress, alcohol, bickering and too little teamwork and basic respect. By the time everyone left, I would feel deflated or downright depressed. Everything looked like it should to have the makings of a perfect holiday, but when the marriage just isn’t there, it’s really hard for everything to feel like you know it should.

Last year was the first time in 10 years that I didn’t host. Not only that, I didn’t have my kids. I woke up alone on Thanksgiving. In years past, I would wake up early and turn on the Macy’s parade for the kids as I made stuffing. Not this time. My brother hosted Thanksgiving, and, for the life of me, I have no idea how I made it through those lonely hours until it was time to go to his house (when normally I was cooking, hosting and busy with my family and kids). The day had the same cast of characters it had every year, except this time I was a party of one, not four. I had lost my identity. I had no husband, no kids and “my holiday” was no longer mine. I was the only person over the age of 3 who wasn’t part of a couple. I’m not going to lie — that sucked. That said, I was incredibly grateful to be with everyone that day.

To add a little salt to the wound, my ex-husband hosted Thanksgiving in my old house, on my old dining room table set with my wedding china. He shared this day with my children, ex-mother-in-law and his new girlfriend. I wonder if she sat in my chair…

This year is a much better story. I am once again hosting Thanksgiving, and, for the first time, in my new home. Again, we have all of the same people, but now I have my kids. Again, I will be the only one “uncoupled”, which I’m sure will stab me here and there, especially as I’m nursing wounds from a recent break-up. That said, I am looking so forward to it, and I feel like it will be a wonderful day. I’m not expecting a “Norman Rockwell” holiday (I don’t remember his paintings showcasing the single mom on holidays or any day), but I think it will feel more like it, which is all that has ever really mattered.

If you are newly separated or divorced, you are probably somewhere between wanting to stick your head in the sand or filled with angst, and it could change by the hour. I encourage you to think about what is coming and how you’ll get through it. My only rule is don’t do what you think you should do or what others want you to do. If you aren’t comfortable with a situation, don’t do it. You need to take care of you. Period.

The holidays will never be the same. They just won’t. But, that is likely not an entirely bad thing. You may even discover you enjoy the holidays more when the stress of a bad marriage doesn’t cast a cloud over the occasion. That all sounds well and good, but how do you actually get through this? Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Celebrate on a different day. If you don’t have your kids on the actual holiday, celebrate on another day. Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner the day or weekend before. The event is what is important, not the day on the calendar.
  2. Serve others. Helping others can really lift you up when you are down. Consider going to a shelter and serving Thanksgiving dinner to people in need.
  3. Retreat to nature. Go for a hike and relax in the beauty of the outdoors. Find peace in the solitude.
  4. Travel. If you want to simply escape the day or long weekend — do it. Escape from your normal environment to change the dynamics of past family holidays. I have friends that either hit Las Vegas or Mexico every year they don’t have their kids. They have actually come to really look forward to those years!
  5. Exercise. Get your day started with doing a 5K Turkey Trot, yoga class or a long walk. Even though this may be the last thing you want to do, it will probably make the rest of your day just a bit better.
  6. Be kind to yourself. Show yourself the same respect and kindness that you would to a friend who is hurting. Give yourself the permission slip to do whatever it is you feel you need to do.

You can find many more helpful tips at Untangle The Knot. We offer many more ideas for the lifelines that can help you make it through the rough days, how staying connected to important parts of your life can provide you a much needed anchor, and considerations for holidays to incorporate into your parenting agreement — just to name a few.

The approaching holidays may create terrible feelings initially, but it will get easier over time. That’s what I’m told, and I am counting on it!

I would love to hear your comments on your experience with holidays as a newly separated or divorced person. How did you get through it? What are your plans for this year? There is no rulebook for how to do this. Let’s support each other through to the other side!