It is almost Christmas! Such a beautiful time of year (well so the songs say!) and I must say I love Christmas- it is a time when I am with my closest family and friends, holidaying, celebrating and just being grateful for all that the year has thrown our way. But I know that for many of my clients, Christmas can be a time of great sadness, loneliness and loss.
The first Christmas after divorce or separation will be one of the hardest. Christmas is a time that would usually bring families together and yet for those who have divorced, they are of course apart. Suddenly the traditions you have become used to, sometimes over many years are turned upside down. And perhaps the worst bit is that there is often little you can do about it.
When it comes to the legal process, particularly for families with children, I see Christmas time forever being carved up in a myriad of ways in Court Orders. Usually the children are with a parent from Christmas Eve to part way through Christmas Day and then their other parent for the balance of the time. Whilst the opportunity to spend a small portion of Christmas Day with their children must be treasured, carving up Christmas Day can add stress to an already busy day as bags are packed, toys are left and children are moved between homes.
Some separated families manage to come together for Christmas Day and of course where relationships are respectful and peaceful this can offer children a wonderful opportunity to share a very special day with all of the people they love at one time- but this can be a tough ask, particularly if your divorce is still new as sometimes the wounds are just too raw.
As a Divorce Lawyer I have seen it all. People who in any other situation are entirely ‘normal’ all of a sudden turn into crazy versions of themselves and this is often all the more common on important family days such as Christmas. Even the most well-prepared divorcee is likely to spend many months (and sometimes years) trying to grapple with the feelings that flow.
New traditions or adventures?
I was recently talking with a dear friend who this year has lived through the breakdown of her marriage of over 15 years. This Christmas will be the first where she and her 3 children will not be together for the day and this has been something she has really been grappling with. Her Christmas traditions just won’t be possible as this year her kids will be travelling with their father. This is her first Christmas both divorced and without her children around her. Sue described that it was her fear of loneliness that was the hardest to manage. She was used to having a full house of 3 kids and her husband and now for sometimes a week at a time it was just her, alone so she knew how lonely she felt in any given week but at Christmas she was scared that those feelings would be too much to bare.
So me being me I asked her “Sue, what are you going to do? You can’t be alone, it’s Christmas? Surely there must be something that you could do, somewhere you can go and start some new traditions just for you?”
We didn’t get far that day other than a good few tears and a discussion about how sometimes the cards life deals us are just unfair! But then a few days later Sue sent me a message to let me know she had just booked tickets to head off on an adventure overseas for the week of Christmas- she was going by herself and joining a tour group when she arrived for a few days but she had decided this year Christmas for her was going to be about doing something new, something different and something that pushed her out of her comfort zone and celebrated her new found freedom.
When I received this message I smiled. I have worked with Sue for a few months now but known her for many years and I can only imagine how hard that decision must have been- I have no doubt she will still feel sadness when Christmas Day comes and goes and her family are celebrating somewhere far away from her, but at least she won’t be at home surrounded by all of the reminders of years gone by.
Divorce and separation will bring many new challenges and an awful lot of change. Some of that change will be easy to embrace and much of it will be unexpected and feel unfair- but like anything in life, we often can’t change the cards we are dealt but we can choose how we then deal with them.
If you are about to manage Christmas as a separated family things will be different- and you may not be able to change that but you can change how you deal with the cards that are being thrown your way. Whether you can manage to bring your family together for Christmas or not, this will be a great opportunity to start some new family traditions. Even if you can’t be like Sue and jump on a plane, don’t be alone- find friends and extended family to be with, go out for the day and enjoy the Sunshine and perhaps most of all be kind to yourself as no doubt the first Christmas will be the hardest but like most things in life, it will get easier with time.
If you are navigating the world of divorce you can order a copy of Clarissa’s book, ‘Splitsville- How to separate, stay out of Court and stay friends’ here.
Clarissa regularly holds Information sessions to assist you to better understand the legal issues associated with divorce and separation. You can learn more and register for the next session in 2017 here.- Information Session