Navigating the first holiday season is one of the more disorienting aspects of separation and divorce. I believe it is even more complicated for those who are heavily involved in religious organizations that celebrate the season. So much of our identity is tied up not only in the marriage and family traditions, but also in our faith community. And depending on which particular sect you follow, divorce might be heavily frowned upon, making the entire experience even more painful to navigate.
This will be the fourth Christmas I have celebrated since leaving my twenty-five-year marriage. Actually, the word “celebrate” is inaccurate. The first year was a matter of endurance, not celebration.
For over two decades, I worked hard to make Christmas Eve and Christmas mornings completely magical for my five children. The amount of effort I put into each holiday season, starting with a huge party in our home for one-hundred-and-fifty guests, was exhausting. But if there was one area in which my ex-husband and I worked well together, it was hospitality. Our home had a revolving door, and friends and family knew they would always be welcomed and feted any time day or night.
It was the realization that I could give up the Christmas party that signified to me I was ready to move forward with divorce. 
I said to my counselor: “I visualized myself sitting at home alone on a snowy evening, while my children, their father, and whomever he ends up marrying, throw the annual Christmas party. All of our friends were there, and everyone was happy and laughing.”
Counselor: “Why were you alone?”
Me: “Because I chose to be.”
Counselor: “And how did you feel in that visualization?”
Me: “At peace.”
But it didn’t happen in the first year. We tried to give the kids some semblance of normality. They opened matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. My soon-to-be-ex brought the ingredients and prepared our traditional big breakfast. Grandma and Grandpa were there. Years’ worth of collected ornaments hung on the tree. Gifts were in abundance. But we were numb; all seven of us, and probably the grandparents, too. The younger kids cried, and the older ones questioned.  In short, it was completely and totally miserable. But I knew if we could just keep trudging through, putting one foot in front of the other, eventually, we would all find the peace that the season is supposed to bring.
Many of you have communicated to me that you are uncertain how to proceed with the holidays while in the midst of divorce. With fifty percent of marriages ending, I think it is safe to say that a large number of folks reading this column are experiencing the holidays alone for the first time. I’m not an expert by any means, but I can offer some suggestions based on my personal experience.
1. Give your kids concrete information. They have likely been worrying about the holidays for a while, so let them know dates, times, locations, etc. Repeat as often as necessary. 
2. Release attachment to specific dates. December 25th is not sacred. My kids are with their dad every Christmas. We celebrate for a full weekend in mid-January, and the stress is considerably lessened. Ourselves time together is just as precious. 
3. Be gracious to yourself. It is easy to second guess your decisions, hash over the past, and worry whether you are doing the right thing. But don’t let negative self-talk add to the trauma you are already experiencing.
4. Encourage someone else. Whether through volunteering, offering a kind word, or paying for the guy in line behind you at Starbucks, there are countless ways to make someone else’s world a little brighter. And in doing so, you give yourself a reprieve from dwelling on your own problems.
5. Let go of expectations. Allow yourself to simply go with the flow and see what happens. It is when we least expect it that the most wonderful things happen! Miracles happen every day. Choose to see them. 
Above all else, rest assured that it not only gets easier, but soon, you will feel normal again, and you will feel peace at the holidays. 
-Syndicated columnist Ginger Claremohr is an author, speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook, find her on the web: www.claremohr.com, or contact ginger@claremohr.com.