Marjorie JamesChristmas is the time to give and receive gifts. It also is the time for many families to share time with each other in celebration. For people who are separated or divorced, the first Christmas as a single can be overpowering. There are gifts you may need to give this Christmas that have nothing to do with shopping at Macy’s or Best Buy. Dollars are not needed for these gifts, but they are truly priceless.

1. Give yourself permission to grieve. When something as life-changing as divorce occurs, there are naturally going to be periods of deep grief. Parents want to appear strong for the children, but the key, it seems to me, is to find a way to grieve without falling into a deep depression.

I spoke with a woman who found a way to deal with her grief after her husband left her for another woman. It is a bit weird, but it helped her get through the toughest times. On her most difficult days, after the children left for school she set the kitchen timer for 29 minutes. She said it seemed important for her to set a limit; under 30 minutes worked. She then would spend the time walking around the house “weeping and wailing” or sitting on the floor of the living room rocking back and forth.

When the timer went off, she would find something constructive to do away from home like aerobics or mall walking. If she wanted to stay home, she would look around the house for inspiration. When the children came home in the afternoon, sometimes the living room furniture would be rearranged or there would be glasses of milk and freshly-baked cookies ready. She said is was the beginning of the “new woman” she became.

This usually is not a one-time-only occurrence, obviously, but let it happen, then pick yourself up and start again.

2. Give yourself permission to rejoice. This may seem strange, given the first gift, but your new future beckons. Much of the tension you may have gotten used to is gone, replaced by laughter or calmness. Make new Christmas decorations, plan a festive neighborhood get-together, or sing Christmas carols with full gusto in the shower. Do something to remind you of the joy the Christmas season can bring.

3. Give yourself the chance to make Christmas memorable for you and your children. Consider a Christmas walk on the beach, followed by much-needed hot chocolate. If there is snow, build snow forts and have the “First Annual Snowball Fight.” What about a movie with Chinese food or hot dogs roasted in the fireplace afterwards?

There are other gifts that I will explore next week. Put on your thinking cap and come up with ones of your own. This could well turn out to be the best Christmas ever!

Copyright 2013. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.