Christmas is not, and never has been, my favorite time of the year. Christmas, for me, represents heartache and pain, separation and loneliness.

This year was no different.

It is not that I don’t enjoy celebrating the anniversary of the birth of our Savior with my family but there is always an underlying sadness and over the years I have come to terms with the fact that the sadness will always be there . . . and that’s okay.

The sadness originally stems from when I was 12 years old and my parents got divorced. Over the years, as I have seen the heartache that divorce inflicts, that sadness has grown into a deep longing and desire to see families stay together.

I wrote about The Sorrow of Christmas (and broken marriages) a few years ago on Start Marriage Right and every year I am reminded of what I wrote then.

Divorce leaves a legacy of hurt and pain that affects future generations.

Two weeks before Christmas I gave a children’s talk at our church. I spoke about COVID and the impact it has had on all our lives and I asked the children what they had found the most difficult thing about COVID. One little girl, about 8 or 9 years in age, shared that the most difficult thing about COVID for her was the fact that she had not been able to see her dad for months.

I felt my heart breaking . . . because I knew her pain; I felt her loss.

A few days later a friend phoned, she was crying and told me that her heart was breaking.

Her son was divorced and she had one grandchild from that marriage and another grandchild from his second marriage. Her son and ex-daughter-in-law had joint custody, with an agreement that their child would spend every alternate Christmas with one of them. The mom had also remarried and there were two children from her new husband and another child between them.

My friend had spent the afternoon listening to her son’s children sobbing about how they wanted to spend Christmas together. The two half-brothers were desperate to wake up together on Christmas day, to wake up in their own home (the first wife had moved out), to open their presents together, to play together. Her oldest grandchild did not want to go for Christmas to his mom’s house (not because he doesn’t love her) but because there were two other children already in the house and he had a half-sister he didn’t live with all the time. He was tired of having to constantly move between two houses and all he wanted to do was have this Christmas with his brother.

My friend’s last words to me before she put the phone down were “I so wish they could be one complete family, not this fractured, hurt family, now torn in two”.

It reminded me of the words of Sarah Dessen in What Happened to Goodbye:

But in the real world, you couldn’t really just split a family down the middle, mom on one side, dad the other, with the child equally divided between. It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again. It was what you couldn’t see, those tiniest of pieces that were lost in the severing, and their absence kept everything from being complete.

Divorce causes ripples of hurt and pain in children’s lives no matter how amicable the divorce may be. The child may never be complete again.

In Malachi 2:16, God says, “I hate divorce.”

If you and your spouse BOTH love the Lord and are contemplating divorce, please seek counseling and weigh up very carefully whether the repercussions of dividing your family are going to be worth it.

The remedy for most marital stress is not in divorce. It is in repentance and forgiveness, in sincere expressions of charity and service. It is not in separation. —Gordon B. Hinckley

Originally written for and published on Start Marriage Right,