Two weeks to Christmas, I am readying for the annual co-ordination of several different strands of the people who make up our family. This year we will be bringing together his and mine from all different parts of the country so that for a few days at least we will be together to remind ourselves and each other that we are indeed a family. The almost military organisation that this requires could, if I let it, make my head spin. In these days when distant relatives refers to geography and not relational space, getting us all together under one roof is no easy task.
Around the country and indeed the world I guess the same thing will be happening. Christmas being the one time of the year when family comes together to celebrate the ties that bind us and the safety and the security, both inside and out, that this offers. For those of us in fractured and separated families, those who we gather with us are often the precious survivors of a holocaust of grief and loss. Each year I give grateful thanks for the ones who survived my own family separations and send out love to those who did not, all of whom will be remembered throughout this coming festive season.
Each time the lights twinkle in the darkest time of year I am taken back to the times when I too was suffering loss. My family is made up of fracture lines and my husband’s too. We have both known the cold hard pain of Christmas without the ones we love around us, though he more than I, the experience of silence that greets you as you return from dropping the children at their other parent’s home on Christmas Day. As he says now though, at least he got to see his children on Christmas Day and tuck them into bed on Christmas Eve and share with them those special warm hours that this time of year brings, whilst once again, so many parents this year, will not.
We talked again recently about how we individually coped with the most difficult times of our losses. For me it was being able to fold my home around me, fill it with warm smells and lights and things that made me feel safe and cosy. For him it was being able to put on a comedy or a film, cook himself something good to eat and relax. For both of us it was about knowing that taking care of ourselves, in whatever way worked for us, was what got us through.
Self care is so important for separated parents, because it is this willingness to take responsibility for your own self as a deserving person that sustains the self worth that pulls you through the sorrow and the pain. When your world has come crashing down around you and there is no-one to take care of you, being willing to take care of yourself is a gift that no-one else can give you but one which is worth millions in the long run. For you are worth all the love and care in the world. You are worth it because you are your children’s parent, you are worth it because you are someone’s son or daughter and you are worth it because you are, just simply, you. If your children could give you that gift of showing you how much you are worth it, they would and if they can’t because they are prevented from doing so, it doesn’t mean that they do not want to or would not if they could. Children love their parents, they love them deeply and unconditionally and fiercely. When that love is interrupted it is not the case that love dies, it does not. The love your children feel may run in rivers deep beneath what you can see, but it runs there just the same and it would take more than one parent can do to prevent that love from flowing towards you one day in the future.
Wherever you are on the path of separation, know that there are others with you, travelling the same rocky and difficult road. Whether you are with your children or without them, whether you will see them at Christmas or not, when it comes to the time when the night falls silent and they are not there, take heart and take care of yourself because you are not alone. This too will pass and life will change and those who will help you are those who have been there, where you are now. However you celebrate the middle of winter, whoever you celebrate it with, whether you are with loved ones or alone, wrap your love around yourself and know that those of us who have travelled the path you are on will be with you in our minds and in our hearts. Because when you have travelled this road once, you will travel it again, with the others who come behind you. No-one who has sat through a Christmas night, in separation from their loved ones can ever go through this time of year without sending out silent thoughts to those who are coping with that right now.
In this silent night to come I will be sending out mine and hoping, for each of you, a stronger, better, happier new year.
With love x