I will never forget the Christmas party where I witnessed a family being torn apart. Everything appeared fun and festive until my friend’s mom asked me to go grab something from the fridge in the garage.

When I opened the interior garage door, I saw my friend’s stepdad weeping uncontrollably. He was utterly broken and vulnerable, no longer the strong, successful businessman I’d known him to be. For a moment, the wrapping paper was torn away, revealing the pain my friend’s family was going through. His mom and stepdad separated a few weeks later.

This time of year can heap salt on the wounds of failing marriages: more family time together, more need for communication, more alcohol, more opportunity for indiscretion at parties, the expectation to smile and be merry. It can all exacerbate the pain and drive people even further apart. Sometimes the joy you see at Christmas is really just something put on for the family.

It’s not surprising that January has historically been the busiest time of year for divorce lawyers. Couples on the verge of separation often hold out through Christmas for the sake of the kids and the extended family. The new year is also a time when many resolve to make a fresh start and get out from under a crumbling marriage.

Are you convinced this is going to be the last Christmas before the divorce? Maybe you’re living separate under the same roof, avoiding being in the same room, only talking when you absolutely have to. If you are, you’ve probably shut down emotionally — it’s safer that way. You might be so numb you don’t feel anything about anything, Christmas included.

If you’re in this situation, this is not a Christmas you expect to enjoy; it’s about survival now — just focusing on getting the errands done because that’s what the kids deserve. You might feel like you’re walking on eggshells, hoping things don’t blow up and hurt the kids, because that would make Christmas miserable for everyone, not just for you.

We at Issues I Face want you to know that no matter how hard your road has become, you don't have to walk it alone. We have confidential mentors ready to listen and to encourage you through this terribly difficult season. Just use the form in the connect tab below and you'll hear back soon.

This article was written by: Mike Jantzen

Photo Credit: Olaia Irigoien