If you're recently divorced, it may feel like something of a baptism, or conversion by fire. Suddenly, you're single. Perhaps you're now raising children alone. You may be experiencing financial difficulty, or be compelled to return to the workforce.
Whatever the case, divorce brings up sudden—and in many ways, irreversible—changes to your life. And while some of these changes may be joyous, others may not be. You're essentially sitting there with the pieces of your life saying, "Hmm, what is the best way to put this together in such a way that my life is better than it was before?"
We divorce to have a better life, don't we? To have a better marriage. To have a better love. To have peace within our hearts and our homes, and our children's homes. To start afresh. To accept that, sometimes, relationships end.
To start your life off right—whether newly divorced or perhaps divorced for years and just now realizing hey, I haven't been doing this whole "post-divorce life" right—you need new traditions. You need milestones and "evaluations" that symbolize who you are, and maybe even who your family is now, after divorce. These traditions will make your life feel, and be, both special and positive.
These traditions will show that your home is not broken, just reconfigured.
I don't say this to be crude or trite about divorce, but each year as your divorce anniversary comes around, why not take it as a moment to evaluate:
- How far have you come? How far have your kids come?
- Where do you need to go next?
- What things are you still struggling with? What things are your kids still struggling with?
- Have you made peace with the divorce?
- Are you having meaningful relationships, romantically, and with friends and family?
Use this time to reflect on all you have done—and all you need to do still.
Annual Volunteer Timeslot
Unless you're heavily involved with a volunteer position already, why not set aside one or two times each year to volunteer for a few hours, a day, or a few days to an organization that means so much to you? Bring kids if you're a single parent. Make sure it's at the same time each year so it becomes a habit. This will make you feel connected to others, and also give you an appreciation of all you have because, truly, you have more than you realize.
Annual Clearing of the Home
Twice a year, do an annual clearing of the home. Rid your closets of anything you haven't worn. Get rid of tchotchkes you'll never need. Clean out old junk. If you're a parent, require your kids to do the same.
This clearing will not only make your home and space more organized and peaceful, but it will help you become less attached to "things" and see things are far less important than people.
In divorce, when we often lose so much of what we once had: money, property, memories, old children's items and photos, furniture, etc., this is a good lesson and reminder that we have all we need inside ourselves. (Minus food and shelter, of course.)
Make it a mud run. Make it a skydive. Make it a pie-baking contest. Make it a Halloween costume contest. Whatever the case may be, choose to join in on a yearly contest as a challenge to yourself. Why?
- It feels good to compete and have something to focus on that is fun, not stressful, doesn't involve your old marriage, and requires you to socialize.
- You'll meet new people.
- You may develop a new passion.
- If you have kids, it teaches them how to prepare, as well as how to be good losers—and winners. Team spirit is a good thing to develop.
Annual Appreciation Hour/Dinner
Gather all the people you love—whether you're divorced without kids, or with, for an annual appreciation hour or dinner. Everyone can bring a dish, dessert, or drink.
Instead of gifts or cards, have everyone share why they appreciate the others at the table. The goal of this is not only to have fun and eat like a pig, but to gather the people you love so much and help them feel special.
Many of us never felt special in our marriages, or we may have been the ones who didn't show our partners much appreciation. This exercise is not only fun, but also a great way to help strengthen our relationships with our loved ones.
Annual Dating Assessment
If you're single and dating after divorce, and wanting love, try this annual dating assessment. Write down all the dates, or relationships, you had on paper. Write down why they didn't work out. See if you can spot any patterns.
Did you shut people out? Did you keep picking "players" or those who didn't want to commit? Do you see any patterns? This is a good way to help yourself meet the "right" one, if that matters to you.
New Holiday Traditions—For Each One
For each holiday you celebrate, pick a new tradition that either you alone, or you with your kids, can do. This is especially helpful if you are divorced with kids and spending some holidays alone.
For example, if you don't have the kids this Christmas, you can still do the Santa train ride with them every year. Or have them make cookies to leave at your house, ensuring that Santa will still know that they live there too—so the man in the red suit will still drop presents there.
If you don't have the kids at Passover, you can do a mini-Seder when they get back. At Rosh Hashanah, go on a trip to pick apples and eat with honey later on when you get back.
If you're alone at Thanksgiving—or alternatively, Hanukkah or Christmas—take a trip to see faraway friends and celebrate with them for whichever major holiday you don't have the kids.
If you're divorced with kiddos, create a Friendsgiving celebration each year, pre- or post-Thanksgiving! These gatherings will cheer you up.
The most important thing is to create new traditions you will celebrate with the kids, or do yourself, each year.
Biggest tip: If you are alone at the holidays, reach out to friends and family to become a part of their yearly gatherings. Don't be afraid to ask. People understand divorce can be isolating and lonely. Don't let that be you. Ask, and bring food or wine. Most people will be happy to have you!
Annual Family Scavenger Hunt
Divorced with kids? Have a yearly scavenger hunt with them! Make it at a random time of the year when there are no major holidays. It will be a fun family event they'll look forward to.
If they are too "old" for that or too "little," adapt for the age:
- With teens? Annual family karaoke night out! Brace your ears for Taylor Swift.
- With toddlers? Annual family pajama party. Plan to wear pj all day, and eat breakfast for dinner!
Annual Ladies' or Guys' Weekend
This tradition is perfect for those newly divorced—with or without children!
Make it a date each year to have a weekend with your best friends. If you can't afford a weekend, try an overnight. If your friends are married, they'll want a timeout just as much as you do, especially if they have kids!
No matter what you do, create celebrations and evaluations each year to assess where you are on your life path and to celebrate you and your loved ones. Life is NOT over because you're divorced; it has simply changed direction.