My friend Lucy, like many people, remembers Christmas holidays fondly as a child. "My sisters and I would wait all day for my parents to bring down the boxes from the attic and we would go nuts watching them unwrap everything. Delicate ornaments, the lights and the candles for every window."
"I was afraid of the dark," she continues, "so Christmas was also a time of respite for that. I loved how the whole house was lit up and every dark corner had a warm glow."
We are in her living room today, unwrapping her Christmas decorations, some newer and a few from her childhood. Lucy's children, aged eight and ten, run around below us screaming and giggling as they play hide and seek.
She unwraps a ceramic angel and carefully places it on the coffe table between us. "I'm sorry," she says and wipes a tear away. "Now all I think about is how I will have to pack them into the car to go to their father's house. They will drive away and I will wave and try to look happy. I'll come in the house and collapse in tears."
For Lucy, who is divorced, Christmas is now a painful time, While she will spend Christmas Eve with her girls, they will wake up and open presents on Christmas Day with their father in his home with his new wife. Although it has been several years, the loss of their family, their family traditions and the life Lucy thought she would have is still acute.
And she is not alone. Each year families who are struggling with separation and divorce must negotiate holidays like Christmas. It is not easy and often people end up feeling angry, hurt and most of all, lonely. For many, a time that was once magical is now a time of suffering to be endured.
If you are dealing with the aftermath of divorce and feeling overwhelmed by this time of year. there are things that can help. Reach out to people, let family and friends know what you are going through. Make plans for yourself. Schedule time away or with others.
Talking with a professional can also help provide support and reduce stress.
And lastly, remember that the holidays, like bad feelings, will eventually pass.