12/22/2012 06:06 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2013

Post Divorce Christmas: Making the Most of Being Alone

Most people happily anticipate the Christmas season, but for some, a post-divorce Christmas can be a time of loneliness, isolation, depression, conflict over child visitation schedules and nasty thoughts of your ex instead of sugar plums dancing around in your head.

And that is OK; it is alright to have all the feelings above and then some. You are not alone, there are many out there dreading Christmas and all that comes along with it. Don't get me wrong though, just because it is OK to feel sad doesn't mean you should wallow in the sadness.

If there is ever a time of year to put aside life's stresses, it is during the holiday season. How do you get yourself out of your funk? To start, you need to let go of your guilt about feeling less than festive.

It has been my experience that feeling bad about feeling bad only made me feel worse. We do ourselves no favor when we pile one more negative emotion to deal with on top of everything else. If you are divorced and feeling lonely, you are experiencing normal feelings. Accept that it is fine to feel how you're feeling; berating yourself over valid negative feelings doesn't go very far toward promoting a better mood.

You need to give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday season regardless of what kind of adversity you are going through or mood you are experiencing. Just because you aren't feeling the holiday season doesn't mean you can't enjoy the holiday season.

Here are a few suggestions that will hopefully help alleviate those holiday blues and help you feel a bit more of the holiday spirit.

1. Don't wait until the last minute to set up the holiday visitation schedule with your ex. Set them in stone early! Know when, where and who your children will be with for Christmas if they are not going to be with you and then put that stress aside. Get it taken care of let it go.

2. Don't participate in any holiday activities you feel obligated to participate in. If you aren't in the mood to be around nosy relatives or co-workers, make a different choice. Listening to Aunt Velma's complaints about an overcooked Turkey or having to answer your bosses questions about your divorce can be nerve wracking. Be kind to your nerves and yourself!

3. Friends who supported you through your divorce, who know what you've been through, can also get you through the holiday season. If being alone is more than you can handle, reach out to people who are invested in helping you get the most out the holiday -- who better than close friends who don't expect too much from you?

4. If you choose to be alone, remember that you have a right to a good holiday experience. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone one year. I wasn't looking forward to it and I couldn't imagine Christmas without my children but now that I look back, I realize that, although alone, I turned out to be pretty good company.

Being alone doesn't mean you can't hang some ornaments on a tree. Or decorate the mantle. You don't have to go all out and deck every hall but bringing out reminders of the fact that it is a "time to be jolly" is an excellent way to elevate a bad mood.

I purchased scented candles and the holiday scents drifted through the house. I baked Snicker Doodles, took a bubble bath while listening to Emmylou Harris's "Light of the Stable." I then watched chick flicks from a bed with clean, crisp sheets and a plate of cookies and a glass of well-spiked eggnog on the night stand.

I missed my children, but I took the opportunity to give myself the gift of relaxation and pampering instead of ruminating over the fact I was alone and not doing exactly what I wanted to do.

I found that for me, divorce stress and negative feelings during the holidays can be difficult, but they didn't have to be debilitating. For all of us, making time to relax and do the things we find soothing and enjoyable is essential to keeping a balance.

So, if you find yourself alone on Christmas, whether you feel festive and "in the spirit" or not, you do have the ability to enjoy the holiday regardless of your situation. Give yourself the gift of not allowing your negative emotions to dictate how you spend this special time of year.