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Fathers celebrating the holidays alone

Photo Courtesy: Kenneth Braswell

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Braswell

Have you ever thought you belonged to something; only to feel like you don’t.That eerie feeling of thinking and expecting that you are surrounded by supporters only to realize that you might be by yourself. Maybe a time when you felt like you are making sense or doing the right thing; but never feeling validated. It’s like driving on a highway with no signs. Having no idea if you are going too fast or slow, how far you have to go or if you are headed in the right direction. You feel lost because there are no indicators you trust.

Unfortunately, these feelings tend to arise at this time of the year. It’s the time of the year that promotes a feeling of togetherness, however at the same time, creates environments of isolation. Yet at the same time according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the CDC (http://goo.gl/55ObpA) the amount of suicides do not increase during the holidays. It is a myth that people take their lives as a result of not having the Christmas spirit. However, there are things that people should look out for because the likelihood does increase after the holidays.

No isolation is greater than that which includes family; particularly for fathers who find themselves on the non-custodial side of the equation. These fathers often find themselves on the outside looking in during special occasions and more specifically during the holidays when visitation is not an option. I myself remember the silence of Christmas morning without my daughter wondering about the surprised look on her face when she opened her first present. Although I was fortunate enough to see it every other year and still spend time with her on the day; it did not compensate for the times we were apart.

There is nothing more frustrating than playing over and over the imagined joy and laughter that is taking place without you. Each year these parenting situations cause much angst for children who play no role in creating this atmosphere of contention, yet almost always are impacted the most. It is these stories that perpetuate the myth that people commit more suicides during the holidays than any other time of the year. Having said that, research also shows that although suicides decline; bouts of depression and other self inflicted wounds such as substance abuse and incidents of domestic violence increase. However there is hope.

Although the holidays might shine more light on these tense situations; the reality is there are so many more days of the year to which time spent with your children can occur, happiness can be felt and joy can be experienced. Here are a few things a parent who is feeling isolated from their children can do to help compensate for the feeling of sitting on the outside looking in:

❏ Prepare the next visit. Yeah it may be nice for children to receive their gifts on the holiday, but it is the experience they will remember not the day. You’re not going to take the Christmas tree down until March anyway. You might as well use it!
❏ Spend time with others. While our priority is with our children; there are so many other children that would appreciate your presence over your presents. Unfortunately too many of our children do not have fathers to wake up to, so a loving gesture by a man on Christmas morning can do wonders for the memories of children.
❏ Share your feelings. Don’t totally spoil the holiday mood with your BAH-HUM-BUG attitude; but do let those close to you know that you are struggling with fully enjoying the spirit of the day. If you don’t tell anybody you’re hurting; nobody knows.
❏ Plan for next year, NOW. It may not be easy, but expressing to the other parent how it feels not to be with your children on the holiday can yield some benefits. Be real with yourself, if you are already experiencing other issues, you will have to work on resolving those too. Yeah, we know; you have rights too. However at the end of the day, you want to spend time with your children. Let that be your number one priority. Call ParentHelp to assist at 1-800-716-3468.
❏ Life is better with you than without you. No matter how bleak the situation feels, it will not remain the same. That is unless; you keep doing the same thing to fix it (insanity). There is always hope for the better; but you have to be here to make it happen. Not being here is NOT an option. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Fathers Incorporated is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit (S) corporation and is dedicated to strengthening the community and family infrastructure by encouraging and enabling the positive involvement of fathers in the lives of their children. For more information visit www.fathersincorporated.com and follow us on twitter at @fathersincorp