S2 EP7: Handling Holidays When Divorced: Redefining your Holiday for Happiness and Self-Love

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S2 EP7 of The Crazy Ex-Wives Club: Handling Holidays When Divorced: Redefining your Holiday for Happiness and Self-Love


In this episode of "The Crazy Ex-Wives Club," host Erica Bennett tackles the challenging topic of handling holidays after divorce.

Sharing her personal experiences and insights, Erica discusses the importance of establishing boundaries and redefining what the holiday season means for oneself. She shares the three things you need to thrive this holiday.

As she shares her journey of navigating the holiday season, Erica offers practical advice, reminders to give oneself grace, and the importance of setting limits to prioritize one's own happiness.

Join Erica as she guides you through the journey of reclaiming and celebrating the holidays in a way that brings joy and fulfillment.

Full Transcripts Below


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Handling Holidays When Divorced: Redefining your Holiday for Happiness and Self-Love Full Transcripts

Erica Bennett [00:00:00]:

Happy holidays, you guys. I know I use that all the time, but I just freaking love the holidays. Welcome to this week's episode. We are giving you all the tips to be able to thrive through your holiday this year. Right? What does it look like? What can you do? What can you not do? And how can you adjust to what your new holiday normal might look like? So let's get started.

Erica Bennett [00:00:44]:

Hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of The Crazy Ex-Wives Club. I'm your host, Erica, and I'm excited to talk to you about the holidays today.

Erica Bennett [00:01:19]:

I absolutely love the holidays. I mean, Christmas is by far my favorite holiday. When I used to commute to work, my holiday music started safely by September. Sometimes if there was just a rainy day in the summer, I'd put it on because it made me feel good. I just loved the holidays. I really always wanted to create the type of holiday you saw in the movies. I wanted to have that fairy tale holiday where you have a beautiful tree and your favorite present is waiting underneath it. And in the morning, you have delicious baked cinnamon rolls, right? And you open the presents and everyone's happy, and it moves into this big family dinner.

Erica Bennett [00:02:11]:

And the reality is that bits and pieces of that appeared in my holidays throughout my life. But I can honestly say that I never really felt like I found my holiday home. Right. Every holiday, I was still searching. I was still trying to create it. So when I got married, I was so ecstatic to host the holidays. I was like, this is my year. This is the year that I can make it perfect.

Erica Bennett [00:02:36]:

And when we had first bought our house, I invited all the family over. Everybody had a guest room, and in their guest room, it had been decorated, and they had stockings, and we had all the things. And guess what? It still didn't quite hit that feeling. Was it full of family? Absolutely. Was it full of food and festivities? Yeah. And it was full of a lot of stress, and it was full of some arguments and it was full of not enough sleep. And so the goal of today's episode is to set you up for success. Because I've always loved holidays.

Erica Bennett [00:03:09]:

It brought me so much joy. And when I got divorced, things changed and I had to learn how to adapt to a new holiday. And the cool part was that in that adaptation, I found my perfect holiday. I actually did create exactly the vibe and the mode and the thing that I needed. And I wanted to share with you those three things. There are three things you're going to need to be able to create the best holiday that you've ever had. Right. The holiday that you want to have.

Erica Bennett [00:03:45]:

And that's what we're going to talk about today, because here we are. We're about to move into the holiday season. If you are contemplating divorce, there probably is a lot of extra stress and extra arguments going on. If you're freshly divorced, you might be facing your first holiday without your kids or without the holiday traditions that you guys had together. And if you're seasoned at flowing through holidays post divorce, you, much like me, might still be searching on how to create that perfect holiday experience. So let's talk about the three things. When I think about what it takes to make the perfect holiday, the first thing is grace. You have to be able to remove the judgment and the anger, the irritation, right.

Erica Bennett [00:04:38]:

It's the expectations. Because why do we get angry? We get angry because somebody's missed an expectation. So when you can remove judgment and expectation, you can stand in a place to give grace to other people and to give grace to yourself. Throughout my divorce, one of the core values that I learned about myself was giving grace was that I truly wanted to move through this process in a space that I understood that it was hard on everybody and that everybody had feelings involved. And so sometimes we don't say the right things and we don't do the right things, and that comes out and hurts somebody else. But if you can offer up that grace and offer up the space for people to make a mistake outside of what you had expected, that things can recover and things can get back on track. So as you're looking at this holiday season ahead of you, what does it mean to give yourself grace? If you're new in this? I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's not going to be easy.

Erica Bennett [00:05:47]:

Those first few holidays, like during my separation and after the divorce, were hard because each one I was trying to figure out what was the thing that would make me happy. Right. I would experiment with, did I want to make the food, or did I just want to order in a kit, or did I just want to get food from a restaurant? Or did I want to have nothing to do with the traditional holiday meals that I normally have, because having them without the other pieces felt really sad. I had to give myself the grace to explore and to try new things and then to look at it and say, okay, did that work? Did I like what it was? I also had to learn how to hold that space for my son. Right. He's navigating through a whole new experience of what two houses of Christmas and holidays look like. Is he with his dad on the holiday that I'm with my family and he misses out on the cousin time.

Erica Bennett [00:06:50]:

What does it feel like when you're with your family but your kiddos aren't there? These are all big feelings and big grief that can get triggered during the holiday season. I mean, loss, grief, all those feelings get triggered anyways. And when you add this layer of divorce, it can definitely be difficult to manage. So how are you giving yourself grace, and what are you going to do when you find yourself in one of those moments where you are triggered, where you do wish that something different was happening? What are you going to do?

So I know for me, I really had fallen deeply into a really good practice of being present. And that meant that each and every day, I looked at my day, I looked at the things I had to get done, I looked at the extra time I had, and I said, what do I desire to accomplish or do next? And so I took that same approach, and I said, what do I want to do for my holiday? Do I want a tree? Do I not want a tree? Do I want to make the food? Do I not want the food? Do I want to be around people? Or do I not want to be around people? In fact, one of the things that I quickly learned was that the more times that I tried to fill the gap of not having the Christmas gatherings I used to have, right. So because my family had now been broken, I tried to replace that family with friends would invite me over or maybe going to one of my relatives houses, but it never fit the mold. And the hard part was that after I went home, the awareness that it didn't fit the mold and how alone I truly was, was ten times as loud. And so I very quickly realized that while it's well meaning, when people invited me over, it wasn't always the right fit for what I needed.

Erica Bennett [00:08:51]:

And I had to learn how to allow that. I had to learn how to allow the space so that I could figure out what I needed. And it was exactly those types of invites that lead me to the second thing that you really need to have a thriving and successful holiday. And that's boundaries. girl, I cannot speak enough about boundaries. And it's so funny how they show up all over. If you've listened to the Boundaries episode, definitely go back and check it out. If you want more help on boundaries, there's the boundaries class.

Erica Bennett [00:09:25]:

There are so many resources for you. I mean, you can Google it. I'm happy to help you through it. Whatever works for you. But boundaries change your ability to be your best self. During the holidays, everybody's got asks and wants and needs, right? I hear it all the time. Everyone's like, I cannot take on one more thing. I've got so many engagements that I need to go to, right? So many Christmas parties, so many elf on the shelf things that I have to create.

Erica Bennett [00:09:55]:

All these pieces are demanding of your attention. And so for you to be able to get through this holiday season successfully, you're going to need to learn how to establish your boundaries. What are you able to take on and not take on? I just shared that story. So I have one friend in town that would always invite me over on the holidays that I didn't have my son. And in some of those years, it was such a saving grace, because in some of the years, it really felt too difficult to be alone all day. And so being able to go somewhere and chat with people, and I didn't have to cook, there was food there, right? And being able to socialize, it really helped get through the bulk of the time of the day. And when I came home, I'm walking into an empty house. There's no more of that warmth and that energy.

Erica Bennett [00:10:56]:

And I felt so incredibly sad. And what I started to realize is that just because there was an invite and just because there was an activity, it didn't mean that it was the right fit for me. I started to realize that for me to be my best self, sometimes, it was not trying to recreate the holidays I used to have, but creating a new, personalized version of what this holiday means for me now. There are always times and opportunities to create a more social holiday. And if you remember back when you were married, there were no times to create your own personal getaway. There were no times to really make the holiday just about what you wanted. Because kids and in laws and family and partners and everybody else had something that was needed. So I started to realize that this boundary, this thing that I needed was, gosh, I think I might need to be alone on some of these holidays.

Erica Bennett [00:12:00]:

I realized that I needed to create my own rituals. So I started to set up some boundaries. Remember, these boundaries are these flexible rules, right? So if the invite came in, sometimes I would say yes, and sometimes I would say no. Or I'd ask if I can kind of play it by ear and let you know.that day. I also started to get really clear with my family. When was I coming to family gatherings and when was I not? Because it was a lot to take on. The travel to get there and the time away and the not sleeping. And it didn't always reinvest in me the way that I was hoping.

Erica Bennett [00:12:39]:

Boundaries also meant that while, yes, I mean, I love baking, you guys. Christmas cookie making was my favorite part. But I don't have people now that I work out of home and not an office, right. I'm not taking sheets of it into the office. Which means that I had to create a different boundary on what it meant around baking Christmas cookies. Was I ruining Christmas by not getting ten different cookies baked with my child? No, I wasn't. Because when I tried to do that much, I became not fun to be around. So a boundary, a new boundary.

Erica Bennett [00:13:17]:

We pick one or two cookies that we're making that year, and that's all we're making. And then we make sure that we really enjoy the ones that we are making. We make sure that we really have fun while we're doing it. A new boundary had to be set. If you think back to the boundary episode, I talked about the fact that your boundary is not a prison wall, right? It's this white picket fence around your yard. And your yard might be bigger or smaller, depending on how much you can maintain. When my marriage was over, I sold the 2000 square foot house with the big yard and all the landscaping that had to be taken care of, and I wasn't doing it. The three bathrooms and the four bedrooms that had to be cleaned.

Erica Bennett [00:14:00]:

And I was exhausted, and it was too big of a boundary for me to maintain. So I sold it and I bought a smaller boundary. I bought a smaller footprint, a footprint that I knew that I could maintain. I bought a townhouse where the yard and the snow removal is taken care of, where it is half the size. I only have one and a half bathrooms to clean. And it is the most beautiful thing in the world. Right. Cleaning the whole house takes me maybe 30 minutes.

Erica Bennett [00:14:28]:

Done. My boundaries changed. They got smaller. So as you're moving into this holiday season, take a look at where your new boundaries are. If you're solo for the holiday, even imagine the fact that your boundary is just a circle directly around you as an individual. There is nothing else that you need to take care of. There is nothing else that you need to do. There are no other commitments.

Erica Bennett [00:14:53]:

And guess what? You get to say no. You get to tell people that whatever maybe you've done for all those years, you want to try something new. You might like the new thing you tried. You might not. But you will never know until you try it. So take this season, this new holiday season, and redefine what your holiday means for you. Your boundaries are going to be crucial. Your ability to say, does this serve me? Do I have the energy to do this? Do I want to do this? And if the answer is no, say no.

Erica Bennett [00:15:27]:

Say no nicely, but say no. If it serves you, if it is something you can take on, if it's something you really want, then say yes. You might say yes. You might be like me in the cookies. You might say yes. And then realize halfway through it, this was some crazy shit because you don't have the support and the backup plan like you used to have. And then pivot. Redirect it.

Erica Bennett [00:15:51]:

Figure out a new plan, but decide what you need to be happy and maintain that boundary.

Hey there, podcast lovers. It's Erica. Are you a proud member of the Crazy Ex Wives Club? Well, I have some exciting news for you. Introducing the Crazy Ex Wives Club merchandise now available on Etsy, you can show off your divorce pride with a fantastic range of items. We've got everything from tumblers to sweatshirts, T shirts, mousepads, koozies, bags. You name it, it's in there. And they all feature our iconic podcast logo and those witty, kitschy phrases you love. So whether you're saying not crazy, just divorced, or giving a warm welcome to the club, our merchandise has you covered. It's time to celebrate your newfound freedom with style. Head over to Etsy today, search for the Crazy Ex Wives Club shop, and then grab your favorite item. Let the world know you're proud to be a member of the club.

Erica Bennett [00:16:34]:

Another thing that I created a boundary around. I don't know if it's a boundary, but a best practice was like, to me, the act of opening up presents was really important, because within each of those gifts, I was taking time to really be grateful for the people who were still in my life. And specifically, the three women in episode one are the three women whose gifts would come and I would save and I would set them aside. And throughout that holiday day, I didn't just sit down and rip through them all.

Erica Bennett [00:17:33]:

I didn't open them up. The moment they arrived, I saved them. I created a new holiday ritual for me, which was around opening these gifts that I would open one and I would sit with it and I would look at it and feel all the feels. And then I'd wait for a while, I'd go do something else before I open the next gift. So when you're creating and identifying what those boundaries are, a lot of times a new ritual starts to build itself around it. So the ritual of how you want to give and receive gifts, are you giving yourself gifts? Right? Are you ordering stuff for yourself, wrapping it up and putting it under the tree? That counts too. Are you giving yourself the gift of just quiet time or a massage or an experience? That counts too. So create those boundaries, decide what you need, and then within your boundary, within your white picket fence, build the rituals that support you in being happy. Build the rituals that support you in experiencing the day as you want to experience it. Because the third thing that you need to be able to thrive in your new holiday is the ability to be alone.

Erica Bennett [00:18:48]:

Loneliness was a large part of my journey. Loneliness was actually a large part of my soul's plan, this go round. I always felt really alone. I felt really alone within my family that loved me. I felt really alone in school, never understood. I couldn't quite find my people. I thought that when I got married, the loneliness would stop, because now I had my partner, I had my person who was supposed to do all the things with me. I was never supposed to have a Friday night where I didn't have somebody to hang out with.

Erica Bennett [00:19:21]:

I didn't have to be alone anymore. And along comes divorce. And with it came a whole new wave of what being alone really meant, of the challenge of falling in love with myself. I think a lot of times we stay so busy that we don't have to learn who we are, and we don't have to learn how to love our alone time. I used to think of alone time as just a thing I had to get through. If I could prove that I could get through being alone, then a partner would show up. I can prove, hey, I can do it alone. I can do it alone.

Erica Bennett [00:19:59]:

I don't need somebody. So now, according to the rules of manifesting, because I don't need it. I want it, don't need it, it should show up. And that is not the case. So for a lot of Christmases, for a lot of holidays, I was going between being social or being home, going out for dinners or not talking to people on the phone. And the absolute gift was the year that I decided to do absolutely nothing. And I didn't expect this to happen. I just kind of was tired.

Erica Bennett [00:20:33]:

I just didn't want to do all the things. I put my tree up. I had ordered some cute flannel buffalo Plaid pajamas, had on my favorite, Santa Sweatshirt. Was just doing my own thing for the day. I don't even remember what I did for food. That might have been the year. I ordered a meal kit. And it was like, really bad. The food is bad.

Erica Bennett [00:20:54]:

It was bad decision. Meal kits, not the way to go, in my opinion. For holidays, I've done a few. I do not recommend - highly, do not recommend anyways. But what I did do is I turned on the Christmas lights and I made myself a chocolate martini. I moved through my holiday rituals, right? I opened up the gifts one at a time. I watched all the Hallmark holiday movies. I wanted to.

Erica Bennett [00:21:20]:

When I felt like sleeping, I slept. I did nothing other than what I wanted to do next. If I took a bath, right? Laid on the couch, went for a walk, all the things. And I got towards the end of the day and I realized that I had finally found the perfect Christmas. And that all these years, all these searchings of the perfect Christmas, I kept hoping that somebody else was going to show up and fill me up with love, right? Because, I mean, come on in a Hallmark holiday, what is Christmas? Christmas is the gift of love, right? You love somebody, that somebody loves you, you love your family, and love all around. And so I'd spent my whole life searching for that level of love. Like, oh, when you have the perfect Christmas, you're going to feel so loved. And when you have the perfect Christmas, you're going to give so much love. And then on this Christmas, when I saw absolutely nobody and just hung out with myself, I was journaling at the end of the day.

Erica Bennett [00:22:32]:

And as I journaled, I realized that I had found it. I had truly found that feeling of never ending love, appreciation, acceptance, excitement for exactly where I was. And guess what? It didn't rely on anybody else. It didn't rely on family or phone calls or gifts. It truly lied in the gift of me giving myself back to me. It became the perfect holiday. And I truly tapped in to this overabundance of love when I realized that when I love myself, to prioritize my own needs to do what I want to do. I feel so much more love for everybody else that I could continue to give back.

Erica Bennett [00:23:22]:

And to me, that holiday, I mean, I still remember posting about it on social media because my mind was blown. I had spent 30 plus years, I was still in my late 30s, searching for love on a holiday. I was searching for that feeling of overabundance, of love in every other person, trying to get them to give it to me. And the reality was, I just had to give it to myself. You guys, you are the only one who can love you the way that you need to be loved. Yes, other people love us, and yes, we love other people, but we are not inside their minds. You can love your child to the nth degree. You would die for your child. And at the end of the day, your child can probably make himself happier than you can because he knows exactly what he wants.

Erica Bennett [00:24:15]:

It's impossible for us to continue to expect other people to be the giver of all the love we want to feel. You have to be able to give it to yourself first. And that holiday, I finally felt it. I felt all the warm feelings. It was the most perfect holiday. Everything was exactly the way it was. And it was because I had used those three things right. I gave myself grace.

Erica Bennett [00:24:39]:

I gave myself space to explore what did I want in a holiday? What did I not want in a holiday? And giving space for other people to have emotions around it, too. I set boundaries. And with those boundaries of what I could take on or not take on, I then built new rituals within the boundaries that I could maintain. I couldn't maintain six hour drives to the family and ten different types of cookies and gifts wrapped all pretty and perfect. I'm going to tell you right now, my gifts are ugly when they arrive. The gift wrapping or the cards is probably, like the last. I am trying.

Erica Bennett [00:25:14]:

I'm working on it. Because now I'm in a better space. And I can add that inside my boundary. But back in the day, that was not a priority, right? I reset my boundaries. And then within those boundaries, I created rituals that supported who I needed to be my best self. Little moments of joy, little ways to give back to myself. And when it hurt, I let it hurt you guys. You could build rituals that you love all day long and you're still going to cry.

Erica Bennett [00:25:42]:

That day is still going to hurt sometimes, and that's okay, too. So give yourself grace, create these boundaries, and then really, truly learn how to be alone. My entire life I have sought and desired partnership. I think that is part of my lesson of being alone in that I always thought that true level of love was going to come from somebody else. And so being a person who has craved and wanted and sought partnership her whole life, this concept of being alone just didn't feel good. I didn't want to do it. But once I learned how to truly love being alone, then I learned how to truly love and accept other people for who they are.

Erica Bennett [00:26:31]:

Because they never have to show up a certain way for me to still love me. And it's in the space when you're alone that you learn how to love yourself. That you learn that you're worthy. That you see that you're worthy. When you remove all the outside noise of trying to meet expectations or meet judgments or be somebody else or look a certain way and you just get to feel how it feels to be you. You find such a deep love for the things that you've gotten through, the heavy shit you've lifted, the things you've learned and healed and grown through it will change the way that you see the rest of the world. But it does happen when you're alone. Not when you're busy, not when you're with other people, when you're alone. In fact, it's kind of like the gift COVID tried to give us. It tried to push us towards that learning.

Erica Bennett [00:27:26]:

And some people got it. Some people, when all the outside factors of having to be out, having to move through society, having to live to certain expectations were removed and you just lived within your own space, they found how beautiful and freeing it can be. And if you keep running from the alone time, alone time becomes very painful, right? It becomes very scary. And this holiday you're going to have some alone time. And I'm here to tell you that you're going to be okay. So if you get to that alone time and it feels like shit, grab your journal. If you get to that alone time and it feels too heavy and it feels exhausting and it feels so incredibly painful, write it out.

Erica Bennett [00:28:13]:

Write a letter in your journal to yourself or to God or to the universe or to your ex about why you're so pissed at having to be alone. I remember I'd write a lot about how mad I was that I was alone again. Why does this keep happening to me? How come the moment I think I finally find the match, it's gone? Why do I continue to have to be alone again and again and again?

Yes, there is a lesson in being alone. And when you learn to love yourself through it, I'm going to tell you that you're going to start to crave that alone time. Not because you're burnt out, not because you're so dead, you just need nothing, but because you truly love having time with you. Without anybody else putting demands or requests in there that you just truly love who you've become. So as you guys head into this holiday season, what rituals are you going to create for you? Just like the whole divorce process. You guys get to retest, like, test and learn. What do you love and what do you not love? There's a lot of things you've been doing through the holidays because you've had to do them.

Erica Bennett [00:29:26]:

You don't have to do them anymore. You get a pass card. This is your pass card. If somebody's like, you have to come to the family party, you're going to say, actually, Erica told me I didn't. So I'm a member of The Crazy Ex-Wives Club, and we get a pass card for the holiday, right? Take a pass card. What do you want to do? I have gone from going home to my mom's, going to family, going to friends, going on solo trips, flew into Colorado a few times just to go do my own thing, to be in the snow and the mountains, right? To staying in my own townhouse. And I will tell you that for a lot of those first years, so I have my son every other holiday.

Erica Bennett [00:30:12]:

For a lot of those first years, I booked a trip because I knew that I'd be happy traveling, right? I know that going to the mountains is my happy place. So I knew I was kind of, like, stacking the deck in my favor, that while I'd be sad as I watched all these other families walking around, like, hey, I'm still in the mountains and I'm still with my music and my solitude, and I should be like, over 50% good, right? I'd stack the deck to help me out. I'd take myself somewhere where I knew it brought me a lot of joy. And guess what? I still ugly cried. It still hits you eventually. And as those started to move into feeling like more work, it felt like more work to travel somewhere for the holiday. I started to move inward. So give yourself some grace, you guys.

Erica Bennett [00:30:57]:

Each holiday is going to be a little different, and yes, it's going to be hard, and yes, you are going to get through it. So what rituals are you going to create? Are you going to take yourself to a fun hotel, maybe with, like, a hot tub or like a fancy bathtub in it, and take yourself on a trip? Are you just going to stay home and sleep? If you're watching, I got our new merchandise on. Get yourself a Crazy Ex-Wives Club hoodie. Snuggle up. They're super soft. They're super warm. Snuggle up. Embrace the fact that you're in the club now.

Erica Bennett [00:31:30]:

You are in the club. And that means that you get to write your own rules and all the things that you used to have to do just because it was part of being in the family. You don't have to do those anymore. You can now redefine holidays for the way that you want it to go. And I know we haven't talked about, like, well, what happens on the holidays when you have your kids. And yes, those are a little bit more work, right? Because I love to create the expectations for my son. I still rewrote what those meant. We didn't get all the things in that we used to get in because I just couldn't take all of it on.

Erica Bennett [00:32:05]:

So no matter if you are solo during the holidays or you've got your kids, same thing. Give everybody grace. Set those boundaries on what you can take care of, what you can maintain in a happy space. Create some new rituals within those boundaries, and then take some time to be alone. Really reflect on how far you've come and who you are and what you want. So until next episode, you guys check out the merch shop, get yourself some gear, little self gifting for Christmas. Then take some time, figure out your plan for the holidays, and know that one day, one week, one step at a time, you are going to get through it. And this will be another path on your healing and learning journey.

Erica Bennett [00:32:49]:

So give yourself Grace and I'll talk to you guys next week.


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