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Ask Alina – First Christmas After Divorce

Dear Ask Alina,

I need help navigating this year’s holidays. I am recently divorced with a 10-year-old daughter. For many years I had a close community of friendships created through our daughter’s school and neighbors. Holidays have always been joyous with lots of parties, neighborhood gatherings, and our festive house. Although our daughter continues to attend the same school, I had to move to a nearby town and restart my life. Thanksgiving was very sad—just me and my parents at my childhood home. I will have my daughter for Christmas and want to make this holiday extra special. What should I do?

Home 4 Holidays

Alameda Post - a woman stands next to the window looking out. She is standing next to a dark Christmas tree. She looks sad and is holding a cell phone.

Dear Home 4 Holidays,



The first holiday after divorce is a phase where we experience grief. Grief comes in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not chronological, we won’t experience all five stages in every grieving phase, and we can experience more than one stage of grief at the same time. I am guessing you are grieving multiple losses—the happy family holidays you created for your daughter, the community, the friendships, your old festive house.

I invite you to think less in terms of making this holiday special, and more in terms of discovering new opportunities for joy. Create plans not just around your daughter but also for yourself as an individual. The Bay Area is filled with holiday activities where you can stroll the streets on your own or with a group of others. I encourage you to attend such events, especially when you feel sad. Being outside and around other people, even if you are attending on your own, can bring a different surge of energy which benefits mental well-being and helps with depression.

During the time that you spend with your daughter, I invite you to talk about the past and dream together about the future. Ask her questions and listen to her. What feelings come up for her as you wrap up this year? What stands most for her from the past year? What does she need from you moving forward? What has been really difficult this year, and what can the two of you do to make it easier next year?

You may be apprehensive about restarting your life. It can feel scary, uncomfortable, painful, and lonely. Try creating some new traditions, and consider including your friends from your former community into your new activities. Find new decorations for your home—make it your own. Research local activities you can enjoy alone or with your daughter.

Lastly, you don’t need to be a hero entering this new chapter of your life alone. Reach out to your family and friends. Reach out to a therapist. Look for social and support groups on NextDoor, MeetUp, and Facebook.

Alina Baugh is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Ask Alina is for informational purposes only. This article does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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