a

DIVORCE AND THE HOLIDAY ROLLERCOASTER

Between Halloween and New Year’s Day comes a pause in the routine of daily living known as the “HOLIDAYS”. Normal routines are abandoned in favor of traditional rites and merry-making becomes a daily goal. A variety of intensified emotions surface constantly during this time. For a family immersed in the divorce experience, parents, children, and extended family often feel like they are on an emotional rollercoaster.

The chug-chug-chug of the uphill climb begins with a feeling of dread. The holidays are coming and how will we celebrate in light of the changes brought on by divorce? Mom and Dad wonder if they should keep the same traditions or establish new ones. The kids look forward to celebrating the way they have in the past. Grandma and Grandpa, on both sides of the family, are eager to share the holidays with those precious grandchildren. Each family has collective expectations for the “HOLIDAYS” and each family member has his/her own set of expectations. The impossibility of fulfilling all the expectations is a part of the chug-chug-chug of dread.

Parents considering divorce can make the ride less traumatic with a mediated agreement constructed before the rollercoaster leaves the station. Some of the uncertainty of holiday plans will have already been addressed. The mediator will have walked the parents through the holiday before it arrives, and the parents will have some answers about how the “HOLIDAYS” will be different and what will remain the same.

When the rollercoaster car reaches the top of the first rise and descends with heart stopping speed, family members experience a sense of loss of control. “I can’t make the “HOLIDAYS” into my wonderful, loving fantasy.” Depression becomes a constant companion, especially when friends, co-workers and classmates talk about their wonderful holiday plans.

With a mediated agreement, the family has a sense of control because they have a custom-made plan that fits their family and their own unique ways of celebrating. Taking part in familiar rituals included in the plan can help family members feel secure and loved. Family members can help each other by recognizing and understanding that some family members may experience depression and need extra attention and reassurance.

The ride continues with small and large ups and downs and sharp curves.“The children will be with Mom from the time school is dismissed until 8:00 am on the morning of Thanksgiving Day when Dad will pick them up and take them to his parents’ house…..” Parents and kids experience a wide range of emotions comparable to the ups and downs of the roller coaster track. Joy of being with the kids and extended family, sadness about traditions lost, anger about plans thwarted, loneliness, relief when a catastrophe is apparently averted, and excitement about the celebration are only a few of the feelings the “HOLIDAYS” bring out, Every family member experiences the hopefulness and disappointment the ups and downs cause in themselves and people they love.This is a time to be kind to others and especially one’s self. Change is hard and spending some time with a therapist can be helpful for any of the family members.

Finally, the rollercoaster comes over the last rise and coasts to a stop. It’s New Year’s Day and the “HOLIDAYS” are over. Everyone, parents, children, extended family breathes a sigh of relief and is thankful to go back to normal day-to day routines. With the forward planning a mediated agreement provides, the “HOLIDAYS”, during or after a divorce, can be a source of good memories.