Surviving the first holiday season after a break-up

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I made ham-and-egg brioche rolls – the buns sourced, comically, from my ex-husband’s bakery. Platters of fruit, homemade dips, biscuits and, well, you get the picture. Jew does Christmas.

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This year I will be going to an “orphans’ Christmas” lunch, which will undoubtedly be merry and extend well into the evening. I will not be alone. But that doesn’t detract from the reality that it will be a hard time.

And there will be more difficult “milestone dates” to come. I am anxious about having plans on New Year’s Eve so I don’t risk falling through the cracks of my varied but disparate groups of friends. I know March 11 will arrive with a sense of melancholy, given it is not only my birthday but his.

I’ll admit that when I used to read articles about the challenges of Christmas for people who have suffered family breakdowns or the loss of a loved one, I found it hard to empathise. But walking through the mall, with that bittersweet feeling of not needing to buy him a gift, I finally understood.

Relationships expert Tala Scott, author of The Seven Stages of Love to Find Mr Right, says one of the best ways to combat loneliness during the holidays is to surround yourself with friends but also spend some time in nature.

Getting out into nature can help get some perspective and exercise after a break-up.

Getting out into nature can help get some perspective and exercise after a break-up.

“Nature soothes the soul – go for a bushwalk, or spend some time in the forest. Walks along the beach or anything to do with water is really important [for healing],” she says.

Often people can feel the pain of their break-up acutely when they’re invited to a social occasion, so why not ask if you can bring a friend, Scott suggests.

And if conversation is likely to turn to your ex-partner, the break-up or, in the case your family doesn’t know, the relationship, it pays to be prepared, says Scott.

“The best way is honesty but some people can’t. Decide what you’re ready to share. If you’re hurting and someone asks about your partner, you can break down into a puddle. Steer the conversation to a different topic if you can and if you’re not ready to talk, think about other things to discuss.”

And if the break-up is fresh, it doesn’t hurt to confide in an ally at the event, so they can look out for you during any tough moments, and help gently guide prying relatives away from intrusive questions.

Finally, Scott says it’s a good time to treat yourself to a gift after all you have endured.

“See the Christmas sales as a great way of preparing for someone new to come into your life in the new year. You can have the second glass of wine or piece of steak becuase you are transforming and growing and getting ready for the next part of your life.”

Melissa Singer is Fairfax Media’s Deputy Lifestyle Editor, and Fashion Editor.

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