Friday, 14 December 2018

6 Tips to Help You Adjust to Being Single Again After Divorce

When someone loses a spouse through death or divorce, that loss can be devastating. A period of mourning follows, even in the case of divorce, because of not fulfilling the dreams they had for the relationship. However, there comes a time when life has to begin again, and many singles feel lost in making this transition part of a couple to being single again.

Below are 6 tips to consider when adjusting to being single again.

1. Get to know yourself.

When a couple has been together for a while, the choices they make on where to have dinner, how to decorate their home, their personal choice in clothing, or other decisions are usually made together. After a divorce, each person may not know his or her own likes and dislikes. Take some time to try new things.

Learn your favorite foods, what hobbies you enjoy, where you like to go for dining or entertainment. This can be a time of experimentation and discovery and can be enjoyable. You will find that many of the things you've always done may not have been your own personal choice. And you will also find that many of the things you liked doing before marriage are open to you again since your divorce.

2. Give yourself time.

Therapists recommend a minimum of one year after a divorce to get grounded as a person and avoid rebound relationships. A year is only a guideline.

Some people may need longer in order to feel they have gotten themselves grounded. Be patient with yourself and don't rush things. Rebound relationships are not fair to either party. 
Build a new relationship with yourself and don't allow fear of being single and alone drive you into unhealthy love relationships.

3. Join some groups or clubs that interest you.

Many newly single people join a divorce recovery group and that is the first interaction they have with others as a single person. It can be helpful to find a group you can be a part of, whether it's a writer's group, bird watching, book club, or whatever you like. Getting out there and getting involved will help you move forward in your life.

Nothing makes it easier to find like-minded people and fun groups than social media. If there is nothing in your area you are interested, search Facebook for open or private groups to join. You will find everything on Facebook for Quilting groups to Nascar groups.

4. Make new friends and develop a support system.

Some of your married friends may not feel comfortable socializing with a single person, especially if they are also friends with your spouse. You may find you have more in common with other singles, so seek out people that have common interests. This may be the time to strengthen relationships with your biological family and a good therapist. Having someone to talk to during this transition can make it much easier to cope.

5. Have fun.

Life is different as a single but that doesn't mean it can't be fun and fulfilling.

More and more people today choose to remain single, and thoroughly enjoy the single lifestyle. They list advantages such as not having to ask someone how to spend their money, eating whenever they feel like it and not on someone else's schedule, and not having to share a bathroom! Think of the good things that being single has done for you. 
Take time to enjoy yourself and laugh often. Laughter really is good medicine.

6. When you feel you are ready to date, take it slow and easy.

Single people often complain that dating has changed and they don't know the new rules. The only rules are to do what feels comfortable for you. You don't have to conform for anyone. Be yourself and be true to yourself.

By easing through the transition from being half of a couple to being single, you give yourself time to make a life that is happy and fulfilling.

Be patient with yourself and you just might find you like being single!


Thursday, 13 December 2018

10 things I wish I'd known before getting divorced

As a divorce mediator for many years, I thought I was more prepared than anyone for what lay ahead as I faced my own divorce. Well, I was wrong! Here are some of the things no one told me, which I learned from going through it — and coming out on the other side.

1. Even if you are the one who wants to get divorced, you may often feel sad, loss, fear, anxiety.

Whether or not you initiated the split, one is often unprepared for just how big of a life transition divorce really is. It's a time that not only includes the loss of a marriage, but often also includes the loss of other relationships in your life (your ex’s family, certain friends, and less time with your children, for example). In the process of letting go of your past married life, you will need to begin to create your new life, which often brings tremendous personal growth. However, until you get there, you will likely feel a great amount of fear and anxiety of the unknown. It takes work, but you will find happiness at the other end!

2. Just because you are divorced, all of your problems don’t just disappear. You still need to deal with your ex — particularly if there are children involved.

I so often hear from others who are divorced, “Ugh, I cant stand him!” or “She is driving me crazy!” and I always respond with “That’s why you are no longer married to him/her!” Remember that the bad behaviors you lived with don’t just disappear when you get divorced — the buttons they used to press when you were married may still get triggered, and sometimes even more so after you split. Do your best to let it go and not let it get to you anymore. Easier said then done; it takes practice.

3. Once the divorce papers are signed, now the real work begins. You need to heal from the emotional turmoil of a bad marriage and learn to be happy alone before you can enter a new relationship.

Creating two new homes after divorce with the same resources is one of the first big challenges one may need to make. You may need to go back to work, which can be a huge challenge if you have been home with your kids for so many years.

Your self-esteem will likely need a boost after working so hard at a relationship that ultimately failed. I have found it to be so important to take time to figure out who I am again, apart from being someone’s wife: What are my interests and what kind of partner will really make me happy? Finding these answers takes time, and it can be a fun and interesting journey along the way if you let it be.

4. Your kids may not tell you how they feel, though it may come out through their behaviors.

It is so important to watch your kids' acti
ons and behaviors (life if they start to sleep in your bed, fight with each other, or show signs of depression) and not just go by what they say or don’t say. I so often hear “my kids are doing great” but then when I probe a little further, I find out a very different story. Talk to your kids about what they are thinking and feeling continuously — I have been divorced for five years, and my kids are still sad, have questions and wish their parents were still together. Keep communication going.

5. Don’t rush through the process, as tempting as that is. Everyone needs time to adjust and make good, clear decisions that you can live with for many years to come.

During the divorce process there are so many difficult decisions that need to be made, and these should not be made swiftly or without a lot of time to think and process. If you rush, many of these decisions will be fueled by emotions rather than careful consideration. Try and always put your children's best interests first and you will be ahead of the game.

6. You may lose some friends — the ones you thought would be there for you may not be, and vice versa.

This was rather surprising to me: Some people actually think divorce can be contagious! And maybe it is? We all know that there are many unhappily married people out there who are frightened (and I don’t blame them one bit) to get divorced. These people often do not want you around their spouses, giving them any ideas or courage to take that step.

And then there will be the friends, sometimes even the ones you weren’t so close to in the past, that come forward and are tremendously supportive. The largest complaint I hear from divorced people is that their married friends no longer invite them out anymore. So it's important to create new friends — single friends and married friends that are comfortable including you in their plans.

7. Let go of your anger and resentment toward your spouse — this can only hurt you and your children and no good can come from it!

This is so important! Holding on to your anger about what was or what happened in the past will only hurt you physically and emotionally. This doesn’t mean you condone your ex’s behavior, it simply means you need to let go of it. If you feel stuck, seek help — a therapist, a divorce advisor, or a divorce support group.

8. Holidays are so hard, especially in the first few years. Start new traditions and make sure you are not alone.

This is definitely one of the hardest parts for me about being divorced. Holidays to me are about being with family and those you love the most. So each holiday where my ex has my kids, I make sure I do something special that makes me happy and I don’t stay home and sulk. I do continue to spend those holidays with my family and sometimes try and see my kids at some point during that day.

9. Spare your children from bad-mouthing your spouse no matter what: This can actually crush their self-esteem.

As tempting as it may be, bad-mouthing your ex to your children is a big no-no! Children want — and have the right — to love both parents. Saying bad things about the other parent will come back to bite you, as your kids will likely resent you for it (if not now, later).

10. Don’t rush to start dating again!

Our children are not ready to see us with someone new, and you need time to figure out who you are and who would make you happy. Take at least a year off to work on yourself and focus on your children. Trust me, you need time alone to figure out who you are again. 
Until you know that, you are likely to make bad choices and may even choose a partner just like the one you just divorced! Kids too need time to heal and are likely to reject your new partner if they aren’t ready.


Wednesday, 12 December 2018

How to Heal From an Unwanted Divorce

Have you been shell shocked by an unwanted divorce?

An unwanted divorce is the end of dreams, your future and a roadblock no one expects to deal with.

You've found yourself the recipient of an unwanted divorce. Your spouse may have just walked out, or left you for another man/woman. There may have been a midlife crisis, and you didn’t figure into the “new life.” Whatever the reason, coping with an unwanted divorce can be very difficult. Many people in this situation find themselves depressed, tearful, and afraid.

Moving on with your life may seem insurmountable, but there is hope.
Here are nine things you need to know about healing from an unwanted divorce

Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds

It takes time. The old adage, “Time heals all wounds” is only partly true. Time does heal some wounds, but many wounds from an unwanted divorce will never heal. However, time does lessen the sting, and with time, the flood of memories and regrets will happen less and less often. You will one day appreciate the pain for what it was…an opportunity to learn and grow.

You Are Worthy of Love

When a spouse files for divorce, your self-esteem can take a beating. Some report feeling worthless or unlovable. Just because you are not able to make the relationship work with that one person doesn’t mean you can’t move on and find a loving relationship. The divorce may have had much more to do with your spouse and his/her issues than being about you.

Don’t blame yourself. Self-criticism only makes it harder. This is the time to be good to yourself, not beat yourself up.

Cultivate Positive Friendships

Evaluate current friendships and make new ones. Many recently divorced people are surprised to get a cold shoulder from some of their friends. If they were mutual friends with your ex-spouse, they may be more loyal to him or her than you.

It is likely, though; that you have some true friends you can reach out to at this time. Make new friends by asking someone to lunch or to a movie. You need friendships to support you through this transition.

Remember Who You Were Before the Bad Relationship

Remember the past. No, I don’t mean the past relationship. Reach back in your memory to your life before that relationship. What were your hopes and dreams? Were there places you wanted to go or new things you wanted to try? This is a perfect time to take that writing workshop, art class, or other activities that interest you. Maybe you want to go back to school. You have to make a new life for yourself and it should be self-nurturing.

Take Time to Grieve

Give yourself time to grieve. Take down old picture albums of the marriage, play “your” songs. Have a good cry. Cry deeply and then let it go. Give yourself a time limit on your grief, and then make a pact with yourself that you won’t let yourself dwell on the negative feelings any longer. Having a daily pity party is good at the beginning of your adjustment period, but you need to set a limit on it.

Get Re-Acquainted With Yourself

Get to know yourself again. When you’ve been part of a couple, chances are many of the choices made in the relationship, such as where to eat or where to go on vacation, were not your choices but your spouses.

You may not know what you really like anymore. Try new things and learn what makes YOU happy. You now have the freedom to explore yourself and you may be surprised to learn that you are a very interesting person!

Explore All of Your Options

Use this experience as a catalyst for your new life. Sometimes a traumatic experience can serve to move us out of a rut we’ve been in with our lives. Have you been stuck in a career that didn’t fulfill you? Now may be the perfect time to look at other options. Start your life over beginning today, and realize all the opportunities that are available to you.

Celebrate Being single

Celebrate being single. There are many “die-hard singles” who really enjoy living alone. Even if they are in a relationship, there are advantages to being single. You don’t have to share a bathroom.

You can stay up late without disturbing anyone. You can cook what you like to eat. You can spend your money the way YOU want to. You can’t change being single now, even if you didn’t plan it, but find ways to enjoy it. Some solitude can be good for all of us as a time of reflection and reorganization of priorities.

Take Your Time When It Comes to New Relationships​

Be careful to take some time to get yourself grounded again before trying to tackle another relationship. Rebound relationships are never good for either person involved. Therapists generally recommend waiting at least a year to give yourself time to work through the issues associated with divorce before getting involved with someone else.


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Life After Divorce: 4 Strategies For Moving On

Coping With Life After Divorce

Use These Strategies to Help You Find Fulfillment in Life After Divorce

Life after divorce can be as difficult as the divorce process itself. You have suffered a major loss and the healing process will continue, for some well after the ink is dry on your divorce settlement agreement.

Your marriage, family, and role as husband, wife, father or mother was your Plan A. Most of us don’t have a Plan B but that is what divorce calls for…the ability to come up with and put into action “Plan B.”

The key to doing this is acceptance of your present reality. You are no longer married; you are no longer someone’s husband or wife. What are you going to do with that reality? You can fight reality or accept reality and get on with your new life after divorce.

My hope is that this article helps you define your “Plan B” and move into acceptance. 
Divorce is not only an ending, it is also a beginning. An opportunity to take life and make it what you desire.

How to Accept an Unwanted Divorce

Few things are worse than the lack of control and emotional pain one feels when a spouse decides to leave a marriage. Questions about why there has to be a divorce go unanswered and fear of what the future holds are constant. And the loss of the one you love is unbearably painful. You can go from feeling hopelessness to hopeful and looking forward to life after divorce.

Finding Your “Plan B” and Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce

To “move on” after divorce you need to be open to new experiences, new ways of looking at things and new relationships. You have to take an active role in rebuilding your life, not sit and wait for a new life to come to you.

Going From Stay at Home Mom to Working Full-Time Mom

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average woman’s family income drops by 37% after divorce. In other words, women suffer more financially than men do from divorce. If you are a woman thinking about divorce I suggest you do some serious financial planning before filing.
If you are a woman already divorced, I have some suggestions that will hopefully help you survive the loss of income and get your finances in order.

Get the Most Out of Being Single Again After Divorce

When someone loses a spouse through death or divorce, that loss can be devastating. A period of mourning follows, even in the case of divorce, because of not fulfilling the dreams they had for the relationship. However, there comes a time when life has to begin again, and many singles feel lost in making this transition.

Moving on after divorce, no matter how strong a person you are, is challenging. I know from experience that divorce knocks the wind out of your sails regardless of who’s at fault or what the circumstances are. I also know, from experience that life does begin again and if you make the most of your “Plan B” life will be more than you dreamed it could.


Fall Down Seven Times, Stand up Eight - Keep on Trying!

"Fall down seven times, Stand up eight"

-Japanese Proverb

Whether we're facing and working through a time of struggle and adversity, or considering taking a course of action to achieve something, there's a real danger that we can get caught in a cycle of procrastination. We may be fearful of our ability to cope, to get the results we need or to muster the necessary energy and enthusiasm. We may feel we're not equipped with what this will require of us. We may be fearful of what will happen if we succeed!

In this episode I discuss why I think it's our imperative to act and more importantly, to TRY and not to allow ourselves to struggle or procrastinate out of a sense of fear of uncertainty. Things may work out, they may not. Either way, we do not know until we try.

If you have any comments or feedback on this episode you can reach out by email on

If you'd like to receive the occasional message from me containing thoughts, information or inspiration related to living a better life after divorce, you can join my mailing list at the following link:

You can also subscribe to my free podcast, Kintsugi Life at:

Thanks and have a great day!


Monday, 10 December 2018

Parenting After Divorce - Christmas Tips for Happy Holidays

Cooperative parenting during the post-divorce Christmas season means putting your kids needs first. Let the season be magical and your kids carefree as you insulate them from any animosity your feel towards your ex or his family. The following tips can help make the holidays easier for everyone involved.

10 Ways to Make the Holidays a Little Easier and Happier for Your Child of Divorce

By: Brette Sember

The holidays can be a challenge for any parent, but when you're going through or recovering from divorce, it can be even harder. It's not only hard on you, but also on your child, who wants to please both parents, and also secretly wishes those parents would reunite for the holidays "like they used to be."

1. Plan Ahead

Make a detailed holiday plan with your ex as far in advance as possible. Plot everything out on a calendar, including transfer times and who will be providing transportation. This will reduce any last minute negotiation, bickering, or disagreements, so that transfer can go smoothly. Kids pick up on a lot of tension at transfers and will enjoy their holidays much more if things are as calm as possible. It will also make your life much easier to know what the schedule is to the minute.

2. Go Shopping

When you got divorced you thought your days of shopping for your ex were over, but your child would probably like to be able to give the other parent a gift. If you can facilitate this, by helping your child shop for an inexpensive gift, or by helping your child make a card or gift, you'll add to your child's holiday experience.

3. Pick up the Phone

If your child is with you for a holiday, have him call the other parent. This helps your child stay connected and is also, frankly, just the right thing to do. Even if your court order does not require phone contact on holidays, this can help your child feel more comfortable.

4. Go with a Gag Order

Agree with your ex that you will not discuss anything other than the business at hand when you're exchanging your child over the holidays. If there are things to be discussed about child support, alimony, future schedule changes, or issues you have with each other's behavior, table them for a time when your child is not around. A holiday celebration that is preceded by parents arguing is not very joyous.

5. Over-schedule Yourself

If you won't have your child with you for a holiday, it will likely be hard for you. It's ok to feel sad, but you can stay busy enough to distract yourself. Go to parties and events so you will have something to do. Don't give yourself time to let sadness overcome you. Focus on how you will celebrate the next time you are together with your child.

6. Schedule Meals

A kid who is overfed is often cranky. And the same goes for a hungry child. The holidays are a time of great celebration, but it's also a time of year when people eat the weirdest things at the craziest hours... Dinner at noon, sandwiches at 11 pm, Chinese food at midnight? Whatever your family's plans are, try to coordinate with your ex when your child will be eating next so that you don't send a stuffed child to the other grandma's Thanksgiving table or hand over a hungry kid at 6 pm who won't be fed again until 8 pm.

7. The Greatest Gift of All

With young kids, the greatest gift of all is a nap. It's a gift you give yourself, your child, your ex, and all the family who will be around your child. It's very, very hard to stay on schedule at this time of year, but try your best to get a nap in at naptime for your child. It might mean going a little late to a family party or leaving a little early, but it will be well worth it. Keep naptime in mind when you are scheduling holiday transfer times and schedule well around it whenever possible. With older kids, downtime is important. Think how tired you are after going to your own family's events; then imagine you are your child who is going to yours and going to your ex's as well.

8. Lower Your Expectations

It is too easy to build up the importance of a holiday, so that anything short of a magical winter wonderland event will fall short. If you spend weeks fixating on how perfect you can make it, the big day will not measure up. It's fun to look forward to the holidays. But don't let it take over your life, or your child's.

9. More Is Not More

More gifts, more candy, more decorations, more celebrations will not heal your heart or your child's. A gift may distract your child for a while, but it can't change the situation. Resist the temptation to shower your child with gifts to try to make up for the divorce. If possible, talk with your ex about gift-giving so that it does not become a competition between the two of you.

10. Embrace Tradition

It's common for kids to want things to be exactly the same as they remember them, but in your family nothing can ever be exactly the same. Instead, you can take old traditions and fit them into your life in a new way. Keep things that are familiar and beloved, but build on them in new ways so that you can gradually create new traditions for your new family.


Saturday, 8 December 2018

5 tips for celebrating the holidays with a blended family

Managing the holidays post-divorce is no easy feat. 'Tis the season for tricky schedules and heightened emotions. Here's how to cope.

I love Christmas. Yup, I’m one of those people: belting out schlocky tunes in the car, searching for the perfect ceiling-scraper of a tree, bawling my way through It’s a Wonderful Life. But the emotional and logistical strain wrapped up with the holidays at our house — courtesy of my husband’s four kids from two exes, in addition to our own two little ones — can bring out the Scrooge in me.

There was the time my husband’s then-five-year-old son called to tell us excitedly about the Pokémon toy Santa had delivered — the exact same one waiting for him under our tree. Or the year a tipsy ex-number-one called in the middle of our Christmas Eve party to shout that there was no way she was driving downtown to pick up the kids the next day. You get the picture.

Even for the most happily married couples, the holidays can be fraught with conflict and compromise. It can be exponentially more complicated for the approximately 776,000 Canadian parents who are divorced or separated and raising kids without a new partner. 
Then there are the blended families — almost 13 percent of Canada’s 3.7 million two-parent families are stepfamilies, like mine. Negotiating how to share the kids is never easy, but this is a time of year when it can be hardest to let go. “Christmas is a tough time because there is a lot of tradition and ritual around how the holidays are managed,” says Deborah Moskovitch, author of The Smart Divorce, a book she was inspired to write after her own acrimonious split. “But you have to share it. That’s how you have to look at effective co-parenting.”

Here’s how to ensure your festive season is filled with merriment—not resentment — this year.

1. Make a plan

If you haven’t set a holiday schedule by the time you read this, do it now. “You don’t want the kids to have any angst about what they’re going to be doing at Christmas,” says Moskovitch, who also founded a divorce coaching service. Sit down with your ex and bring a calendar (and, if necessary, a neutral third party, like a professional mediator or trusted mutual friend) to figure out exactly how you’re going to divvy up the holiday break, right down to whether the kids are being picked up or dropped off, at what time, and the things they’ll need to pack. “It can be fluid and change, but it gets rid of any miscommunication,” says Moskovitch.

Trevor Pereira and his ex-wife made their Christmas schedule part of the separation agreement they drew up seven years ago. In even years, he has their two kids for Christmas Eve and morning, then hands them off at noon. In odd years, he picks them up from their mom’s house, still in their pyjamas, and takes them home for brunch and more presents. (To help avoid the aforementioned Pokémon scenario, Pereira and his ex go over the kids’ wish lists together each year to decide who’s going to buy what and how much they’ll spend.) “It’s sad either way,” admits Pereira, an IT specialist from Brantford, Ont. “Either you don’t have them in the morning or you don’t have them in the evening. But at least we both still see them on Christmas Day.”

Luckily for Pereira and his ex, they live in the same town. For co-parents who live in different cities, or even different provinces, it’s not so simple. If you have to kiss your kids goodbye for the entire holiday, says Moskovitch, “make sure you can call and talk to them. They’ll want to know you’re OK.”

2. Focus on the kids

Eileen Ailon, a psychologist and mediator in Calgary, specializes in helping high-conflict couples resolve parenting and custody issues. To keep her clients focused on what’s best for the kids, she sometimes places a picture of the little ones on the table during a session and asks: “What do you think they would really enjoy? What would work for them?”
That can be as simple as letting the kids call mom on Christmas eve or attend a special holiday event with Dad. For mom Maureen Palmer, the answer was more extreme. When she and her husband split up, their daughters, then aged 15 and 10, stayed behind in Edmonton with their dad while palmer took a job as a TV producer in Vancouver. She’d do homework with them every night over the phone and fly back to Alberta for four or five days twice a month (a schedule she kept up for a decade).

“Christmas was very, very big in our family,” she says, and her girls weren’t ready to let that go. So for two weeks every Christmas, she would camp out in her ex-husband’s basement—once even with her boyfriend in tow. “I sort of took over and did Christmas the same way we did when we were married,” says palmer, who went on to make the documentary How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids. It wasn’t easy being a guest in her former home, and her need to impose her version of “order” on her ex’s household created tension. “But Christmas morning was so kid-centred, and we both enjoyed their joy so much, that how we felt about each other barely registered,” says Palmer. “We didn’t want them to feel any of the tension kids who are pulled between two households feel.”

While you should always keep the kids’ preferences in mind, Ailon cautions parents against giving them too much input into how they spend the holidays. Kids don’t want the burden of choice “because they know it’s going to make one of the parents really unhappy,” she says. “They’ll tell each parent whatever they feel he or she wants to hear. For most children, that’s a nightmare.” What most kids crave is a predictable schedule that both parents seem happy with, even if that means putting on a brave face. Practise emotional restraint, maturity and leadership. “The most important thing is to continue to be loving parents, and to keep the conflict away from the kids,” says Ailon.

3. Create new traditions

Your holiday celebrations may have changed post-divorce, but it doesn’t mean they can’t continue to be magical. My husband’s first three children were five, three and one when they came to live with him full-time after the split. He didn’t have a ton of money, but he wanted to give them something new and special. Stockings belonged at their mom’s house (either on Christmas morning or afternoon, depending on the year). At their dad’s, a new tradition was born: The kids would tear apart the tree before present time, searching for their very own magic wand, which, when waved, would make packages from Santa appear in front of them. (I’ll never forget the first time I watched this ritual—how adorably frazzled he got trying to place the right gift in front of the right kid before they opened their eyes.) Though his children are grown now —the eldest is 25—come Christmas morning, the four of them still hunker down with their little sister and brother and wave their wands in the air, eyes shut tight.

Building new rituals is an important part of moving on—for you and your kids, says Moskovitch. “Regroup and think about how you want to celebrate the holidays together. Your kids’ traditions are changing, too, so get them happy with what you’re creating.” And though it will be painful, be prepared to let go of some of the activities you used to do before the divorce. In the early years after Moskovitch’s split, when her children were with their dad for the Jewish high holidays, “I’d sit at home saying, ‘Oh, they’re not doing this or that—they’re not celebrating the way I want them to,” she says. “But you can only control what happens when they’re in your environment. Don’t make them feel bad that they missed out on something when they come home.”

And no matter how sad or angry you are, never badmouth your ex in front of the kids. Save the rants for someone with no vested interest in your personal situation, like a therapist or support group. Similarly, Palmer recommends pinpointing what she calls your “negative advocate”—the well-meaning friend or family member who is constantly reminding you of what a jerk your ex is—and asking them to bite their tongue. “Your people love you and they want to be in your corner, but you don’t want to have those conversations,” says Palmer. “They just feed the animosity.”

4. Stay busy

If you’re going to be on your own for the holidays, be prepared. “Plan for it. Don’t think, ‘I’ll be OK,’” advises Pereira. “Because when you’re sitting there, watching those movies you’d typically watch with the kids, it hits you.” On his first childless Christmas Eve, Pereira was grateful to celeberate with other family and friends. These days, he indulges in a quiet evening at home: “I treat myself to something I love to eat and take some effort to pair wines.” Then he watches a favourite Christmas movie before climbing into bed early. Another tactic is to venture out: Volunteer at a homeless shelter, go on a trip or do something special for yourself.

5. Stay hopeful

As a kid, Precious Chong knew the meaning of “amicable divorce.” She spent holidays with her mom, dad, her dad’s first wife, and his older daughters. But Chong’s own split, when her son, Jack, was still a baby, was anything but amicable. Never in a million years did she think she and her ex would get to a good place.

Fast-forward six years, and Chong considers her ex, his new partner and their baby daughter part of the family. She now blogs about her co-parenting adventures and is circumspect about the situation. “My ex and I have a more meaningful relationship now that we’re not together than when were married,” she says.

Though they share Jack 50/50 and have regular family dinners together in Toronto, Christmas is still tricky. They’re supposed to alternate years, but Chong usually takes Jack, now seven, to visit her folks in Vancouver for two weeks over the holidays. “My parents are losing out on spending time with Jack, and my ex understands that,” she says. Sometimes she wishes they could just celebrate Christmas with Jack’s dad and his new family, “and no one would have to sacrifice anything.”

It isn’t perfect—no family is. Chong and her ex still squabble, and emotions can run high. (She was a wreck when Jack’s dad had a new baby, and cried when Jack gave his stepmom a nicer present for Mothers’ Day than he gave her.) But for parents bracing for their first holidays post divorce, Chong’s story is a hopeful one. “It sucks, it really sucks,” she says, describing those difficult early days. “Remember that just because things are hard now, it doesn’t mean it has to be that way forever.”

Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be clinking glasses with either of my husband’s exes this Christmas; that would take a Scrooge-sized miracle. But since having my own kids—and trying to imagine how hard it would be to spend the season without them—I’ve learned to be a bit more patient. Though maybe you should check back in after New Year’s.