Amidst all the festivities, for those who are separated, especially from their kids, Christmas can be a very lonely and cruel time.
If you are alone at Christmas, be with those who love you- family or friends. Don’t spend Christmas alone.
I received an email last week from the chair of Dads in Distress Support Services, Dean Mason. The email resonated so loudly with me, Dean was kind enough to allow me to post it here:
Dear DIDSS Supporters and Friends,
A few weeks ago I had a dream that was simply cruel. In the dream itself I was extremely happy, with my children and their mother. We were all really happy, doing ordinary household things, getting ready for school and work, chatting, organising, having the usual and manageable tensions of trying to get young children out the door on time.
When I woke up, and the glaring reality of being estranged for so many years dawned upon this dreamy feeling, the cruelty began. The dream itself was like a gush of fresh mountain air for a deprived soul, but in the light of day it was a complete brain-bender. Fortunately I’m not in a profession that requires intense attention to detail in every working minute. If I were I would have taken sick leave, or several mental health days if my employer allowed.
So I did what I have become accustomed to do in such times. Although I have called Mensline in the past, and found them very helpful, this time I didn’t. I worked, I read, I wrote, I walked, I did intense cardio workouts, I tried to share these things with loved ones and friends, I tried to consider there might be positives to be found, I tried to ignore it all, I tried to understand it all. But, just like I hear people speak of various mental illnesses, for quite a few days I could not shake the awful grip this clash of dream and reality had on my concentration and well-being.
Then I read somewhere the neat observation that if it were not for the darkness of night we would not be able to see the stars. Imagine if we never knew the star system even existed, what a massive gap in our bank of human wisdom and endeavour that would create.
And so I began to acknowledge this episode as ‘darkness’ and even to acknowledge it as being something that is probably an essential part of my, and probably all, human (inner) experience. Yet it is one that we have no control over whatsoever, in timing, intensity or duration. All we know is that it might come and if it does, for most of us at least, it will eventually pass. From there I was able to give in a bit, and to almost allow it to define my – I felt, very – shitty daily experience, while trying to protect others around me from its effects.
Christmas time is ripe for these episodes, perhaps because the social expectation all around is to ‘be happy’ even when our living reality may be far from it. And when the impetus to ‘be happy’ is tied to the wonder of young children, and our relationship with our own children is strained to any significant degree, we unavoidably crash into another bend in the brain.
This year has been an especially proud one for DIDSS. The Board has smoothly transitioned from old to new with four new members joining and quickly engaging with the work at hand. Barry, our CEO, with Laurence and Phil our Regional Coordinators, and Alan our National Volunteer Coordinator, Jeff, Jane, John and others who help in head office have done a remarkable job exceeding our government-funded project requirements while also delivering a national 1300 service and supporting the many groups and buddy activities that continue to grow in number around the country. Establishing our first Mums In Distress group was a particular highlight. Support for grandparents, gay dads, and others not served well in today’s environment will be explored further in 2013. Our quality assurance framework has also been established and is already showing marvelous signs of lifting our collective service standards without losing any of our peer-support grass-root strengths.
We have around 200 volunteers who perform a variety of support roles, giving selflessly of their time and energy week after week. This giving is similar to that of a parent to a child, it is unconditional. For me, to be an active part of an organisation that is founded on – and overwhelmingly committed to – this principle of ‘love in action’, is like bathing in light.
Thank you to everyone who has shown DIDSS their support in any way at all during 2012. We need each other, and together we can achieve some extraordinary things to relieve – and perhaps even prevent – the pain and suffering that so many experience when they go through a family breakup.
May your Christmas be full of that light that comes when individually, and collectively, we manage to face the darkness and look to what it shows.
Dads in Distress Support Services
1300 support: 1300 853 437