Breakups suck no matter what time of year they happen, but they're particularly rough during the holidays. While everyone is celebrating, you're struggling with loneliness and heartbreak. Whether you were on the giving or receiving end of a breakup, here's how to cope with the loss during the holidays.
Keep Your Plans to See Friends and Family
When you go through a breakup -- especially if you're the one who got dumped -- it's natural to want to withdraw and avoid people. Seeing everyone else living their lives at their most joyous can make the sting of rejection feel even worse. However, if you withdraw, you can make your breakup all the harder to cope with. If you had plans to see friends and your family during the holidays, keep those plans. As licensed psychotherapist Vanessa Marin explains, being surrounded by other people who care about you is essential to processing your emotions in a healthy way:
It's hard to have a break-up right around the holidays, but it can be really nice to throw yourself into spending time with your loved ones. It's a good reminder that there are other people that care about you.
Friends and family aren't a replacement for a romantic relationship, but they provide the kind of stability and security that you no longer get from your now-ex. Over the long run, seeing other people who care about you will help you process better than being totally alone, especially during this time of year.
Of course, you can't just pretend the breakup didn't happen. While you should still spend time with the people you planned to see, it's OK to give yourself space to process. If you need to cry in the car or take a few hours to yourself in private, do it. If you have people that you can talk about your breakup with, let them support you. Don't try to avoid processing your emotions. Just balance being alone with being around others. Isolating yourself entirely around the holidays will only make the heartache worse.
Let's be fair, too: Your holidays will still be rough. No matter how much you stick to your routine, you still planned to be with someone that's not there any more. That sucks. Don't expect that your holidays will magically be a perfect time of good cheer and merriment. You don't need to get over your feelings and be totally happy for the sake of those around you. Just don't hide from the love you're offered.
Let Your Mutual Friends Spend Time With Both of You
You and your ex probably share some mutual friends. You can't pick and choose who "gets" which friends, but at least respect that the friends you have that know both of you will probably want to support each of you separately. Give them space to speak to both of you and avoid putting them in the middle of your breakup.
Aim for smaller gatherings with your friends that you can squeeze in between the big parties to give yourself quality time with them. If your friends are hosting a large party and your ex is invited, talk with them about how to keep the two of you apart if possible. Unfortunately, one of you might need to sit the party out. If you do, though, try to find another event with friends or loved ones you can replace it with. December's usually a busy month so you can probably find something to do besides stay at home alone.
Get Some Space From Your Ex's Family
In any long-term relationship, you end up developing a relationship with your partner's family, too. That adds an extra messy layer to the breakup if they have included you in their holiday plans. If you're close with your ex's family, you might even be tempted to keep talking with them throughout the breakup. Over the long-term, you might be able to, but at least for now, keep some distance. As Marin explains:
I think it's best to give things a bit of time in this situation. It's important for your ex's family to support their child during the break-up, and maintaining a close relationship with you during the early stages of the break-up can make things messy. If you are really close with your ex's family, send them a message saying that you appreciate the relationship you have and would like to continue it, but that you think it's best to step away for a bit until things settle down.
You'll have to judge your situation on a case-by-case basis, of course. If you only ever see your ex's family during the holidays, it shouldn't be too hard to step away. However, if you talk with them regularly and want to continue talking, you all might need some time.
Prepare a Response For Anyone Who Asks
Inevitably, when you see your loved ones, they're going to ask about the breakup. You don't have to give them details and you shouldn't feel obligated to tell every single person you see what happened, but you should have some kind of response ready. If you're prepared with a short spiel, you can save yourself a lot of awkward conversations. Simply cover the basics. "We broke up, it didn't work out."
Marin also suggests sending an email to your family before a visit explaining the situation. By letting everyone know ahead of time about the breakup all at once, you can minimise how much it gets brought up during your visit:
If you don't want to have the same conversation over and over again with each relative, you can always send an email ahead of time. Let everyone know that your relationship has ended, but that you're not ready to talk about it yet. You can say that you'll reach out if and when you want to talk about it, but that otherwise you'd appreciate it not being brought up.
Lastly, you should have a way to escape the conversation if it comes up. Hopefully, a simple "I don't want to talk about it" will suffice, but some family members can be pushy. Even if you keep your explanation simple, you might walk into an unwarranted barrage of "helpful" advice that stings a bit too much. Instead, be ready to divert attention to something else like the delicious cookies grandma's baking, or what your cousins have been up to this year. Of course, if you want support from your family, it's OK to let the floodgates open. Just do it on your own terms with people you trust.
Volunteer In Your Local Community
The holidays are a prime time to volunteer with charities in your community. Food banks, gift drives and shelters all need a ton of support not only because of the holiday season but the hot weather outside. If you're feeling down after a breakup, Marin suggests volunteering to reconnect with other people, and turn those feelings into good actions for others:
Another good tip is to try to get engaged with giving back in some way during the holidays. There are so many opportunities to volunteer and give back at this time of the year. Volunteering is something we should all be doing anyways, and it's something we should be doing regardless of the feel-good benefits that we get. But it's a good way to put your problems in perspective and feel more connected to your community.
Check out our previous guide on how to give to charities without donating money if you need help getting started. Even if you can't find a place to volunteer, try asking your family or friends if there's anything you can help out with. Maybe your parents need help cooking or your uncle could use a hand repairing his shed. The holidays are a great time to give to and support one another. Going through a breakup will always suck, but hopefully you can ride the wave of goodwill through until you can process your emotions and get back on your feet.