A few years ago, I was dumped during the first week of November, on the cusp of what's commonly referred to as "breakup season." Some people dance around a breakup before the holidays, because they don't want to wreck the upcoming festivities for their partner. Others prefer to pull the trigger ahead of the holidays, perhaps so they don't have to go through the motions with someone with whom they no longer see longterm potential. I ended up with the latter scenario.
When I think back on this particular breakup, I remember the night of, when I sobbed in a cab on my way to a friend's house. And I remember the bleak winter months following the actual breakup, when I reluctantly tried to date for distraction. But what I really remember are the holidays in between (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's), and how I was so grateful just to be busy and with other humans, rather than completely alone and confined to my apartment. Call me cruel, but I think the holidays can be a great time to go through a breakup.
Being around your support system after a breakup is one of the major ways to get through it, according to Danielle Forshee, PsyD, LCSW, a relationship therapist in New Jersey and New York. "When you're surrounded by family and friends, and people who care about you, you have a distraction," she says. For many people, family serves as their main support system, but it can also be friends or other relatives who love you unconditionally, Dr. Forshee explains.
Prior to this breakup, I would jump at an opportunity to skip a holiday party. But instead, I RSVPed to friends-of-friends' parties because I had nothing better to do, and was so lonely that I just wanted to exist around other humans for a few hours. And instead of booking it back to the city the second all my familial obligations were accounted for, I extended my stay to spend more time with my parents.
Don't get me wrong, there are certainly reasons why you'd want to be far away from your close friends or family members after a breakup. Family members often feel licensed to ask you invasive questions about your relationship status — which can feel like the last thing you want lumped on top of your fresh wound.
If that's the case, it can be helpful to set boundaries with your family beforehand, so they know what you are and aren't cool talking about, Dr. Forshee suggests. And if that's not doable, it helps if you have a confidant who knows your situation and can fill in everyone else, or help deflect when things get uncomfortable, she says. Consider calling in that one cousin who always has your back, and prepare her to be your human shield when the gossip squad takes aim at you.
To that same point, if you don't have a family that's 100% supportive of you or your previous relationship, there are still ways you can make the holidays bearable post-breakup. For example, if you find yourself missing your partner or thinking about past holidays that you spent together, tell your family to remind you of all the reasons why you broke up, Dr. Forshee suggests. "If the people around us do that, we can get our brains out of this hamster wheel of positive thoughts about this person," she says.
Everyone has a different relationship with their family, so this might not be true for your situation. But if you are recently single and feeling anxious about the looming holidays, perhaps the best thing you can do is just lean in and embrace the fact that you're going to be surrounded by people and tidings of good joy. There's never an "ideal time" to get dumped, but the point is that it's not the end of the world if it happens around the holidays. And hey, at least there are plenty of really sad Christmas songs to match your mood.