A new year and a new life

Family|January 1st 2016

I read an article recently about a woman who, newly separated, was dreading New Year’s Eve. She bundled her two young children into the car at 11pm, drove around until 1am, then returned home. The reason? Not wanting to be home alone at the start of a New Year.

This resonated with me as I realised just how many clients I have helped over the years would have found themselves in this loneliest of places, perhaps away from the family home for the first time, perhaps in a familiar house which no longer feels like home. The word ‘home’ often takes on a new meaning during separation or divorce, and the re-evaluation process which somehow seems to take place at the end of each year may bring this ‘home’ for the first time.

New Year is a time when we are encouraged to assess how our lives are going, particularly for meaningful issues such as our relationships and family ties. There has been a focus in the press in recent years on just how busy January is for divorce lawyers because people often resolve to separate or divorce in the New Year following a difficult Christmas. What about those who are already in that process, who had perhaps hoped that the start of this New Year would somehow seem more positive?

There is added pressure at this time of year to be sociable and the decision to stay in on New Year’s Eve is not one people tend to broadcast, almost like a social taboo. It can feel like a failing, to finish one year and start another one alone.

Yet the idea that everyone is going out, having a wonderful time surrounded by people they love (and who love them), is like many popular images of the festive season: a fantasy, created by clever marketing, much like Coca Cola’s velvety red and jolly Father Christmas. The truth is that many of us now chose to stay in on New Year’s Eve, whether we’re in a relationship or not. Staying up to mark midnight, much like physically sending out Christmas cards, is itself a tradition in steep decline.

If this is your first New Year after separation and you are worried about what this may mean for you, take some time to prepare. Something I often say to clients is that no matter how well you feel you are coping, separation is still a grieving process, because of the important changes it inevitably brings, whether good or bad. It is life-changing and most people in this situation will benefit from counselling, whether a one-off session or ongoing. Accessing good, professional advice and support could well ensure your New Year starts as positively as possible.

The start of a New Year will always be a time for reflection. If I could speak to the lady who decided to leave her house at 11pm with her children, I would encourage her to focus on the positives: two healthy children and a home to go back to, even if it isn’t the home she envisaged. Take the time to say goodbye to actions or feelings that have held you back, re-evaluate what you need, and where you want to be in the future, and you’ll have all the ingredients for a very happy New Year.

Helen is Managing Partner of the Stowe Family Law Altrincham office. She practises all areas of family law but her main areas of expertise are resolving private disputes involving children, and advising on advanced financial provision following divorce or dissolution.

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