Holidays are traditionally a time for family but for the divorced and divorcing they can be anything but happy. Most of us have some happy memories of holidays spent with family, and when those times end it can feel like our world ends. There are many reasons the holiday season brings up strong emotions—both the comfortable and the uncomfortable kind. For the newly divorced, those without children around, or those experiencing tough family or romantic relationships, the holidays can be downright awful.

So what can you do to make them better?

Plan Ahead. If you are going to have stretches of being alone during the holidays, for any reason, now is the time to do a little planning so you can make your holidays meaningful instead of awful. Design your holidays in a way that make sense to you.

One way to plan is to get fun things on your calendar. Begin by blocking out the events that you already know you have: Christmas parties, church events, school plays, friends and relatives visiting, or your own travel schedule. Purposefully fill in any remaining blank spaces with activities that are meaningful to you. You don’t have to be busy every minute, it’s important to include times of rest and reflection too. When you choose to have down time it won’t feel so much like “lonely” or “loser” time.  It’s a choice you are making for yourself.

Here are a few ideas for activities:

  • Daily walks in nature.
  • A new workout plan.
  • A hobby or activity you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating or other winter activities.
  • Intensive self-care.  Put YOU at the top of your priority list.
  • Give back.  Helping others to gives life new meaning.
  • Improve your living space.  Make it nice to be there.
  • Develop a spiritual practice.
  • Schedule tea, lunch, a walk or even a phone call with someone each day.
  • Create a new tradition.
  • Count your blessings
  • Practice presence. Taken one moment at a time, life is pretty manageable.
  • Make a daily appointment with wonder. Take a child if you’ve forgotten how!
  • Seek to know the life stories of friends and relatives. Every life is as a good novel.
  • Reflect, write, sing, dance, draw, make a picture board.
  • Begin writing your life story.

Holidays for the divorced, especially the newly divorced can be very difficult. It’s important that you anticipate your needs so you’re prepared. If Christmas Eve might be a particularly difficult time for you, plan ahead to fill that evening with something that will be meaningful to you. Call a friend, have friends over to make cookies, go caroling.

Related: Forgive Yourself – Set yourself free!

I know how tempting it is to be taken over by “if only” conversations. “If only I had a partner. If only the kids were around. If only my parents were still here. If only the home was filled with laughter.” It is so easy to wish for what once was. I do it all the time. It helps to remember that right now is a precious time, too.