I was sitting with a person during an exit interview earlier this week, which is typically the last meeting we conduct with a divorce client after the judge signs the paperwork. We simply chat for a few minutes about any loose ends that need to be taken care of post-divorce, such as transferring property or closing bank accounts, and I give advice about navigating life after divorce. The client, a man about my age, is embarking on a journey to co-parent three kids and navigate his first Christmas as a divorced dad. As we began our time, I asked, “How does it feel to be finally divorced, living in a separate home, and moving on with your life?”
“It is really peaceful,” he said. “But also very sad.”
There once was a guy named Horatio who knew something about life’s challenges. He was a successful attorney who lost significant wealth due to a big fire. Around the same time as the fire, his beloved four-year-old son died. Thinking a vacation would do his family some good, around Christmastime he sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to England, planning to join them after finishing some business duties at home. Unfortunately, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship was involved in a terrible collision and sunk. More than 200 people lost their lives, including all four of Horatio’s precious daughters. His wife survived.
Horatio immediately set sail for England to join her. At one point during the voyage, the captain of the ship, aware of the tragedy that had struck the family, summoned Horatio to tell him they were passing over the spot where the shipwreck had occurred. As Horatio thought about his daughters, words of comfort and hope filled his heart and mind.
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll—
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
The sadness of the holidays is a poignant and complex emotional experience for many, whether married or not. While the season is marketed as a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration, it often evokes feelings of comparison, loneliness, loss, and a dull melancholy for those experiencing an extra share of life’s suffering, like Horatio and my client. The stark contrast between Instagram captions of festive cheer and the reality of one’s emotional state only intensifies the feelings of isolation, making a person want to medicate. Memories of seemingly happier times and the absence of loved ones (yes, even your former spouse) can cast a shadow over the festivities.
Acknowledging and talking about the sadness of the holidays is crucial. Also, be open to giving others a safe place to express their reality. You never know the diverse range of emotions someone may be navigating during what is often assumed to be a universally joyous season. Have grace for others, especially when things are going well for you.
This year at Robertson and Easterling, we were privileged to help many people during a challenging season of life. In a community grappling with the devastating consequences of post-pandemic family conflict, we call for an urgent and heartfelt cessation of hostilities this holiday season. The toll of litigation is measured not only in time, energy, stress, and financial costs but in the shattered families and enduring scars on the human spirit. The pursuit of peace is not merely a noble aspiration; it is a moral imperative transcending ideologies and basic human differences. To end conflict is to choose a path of compassion, understanding, and cooperation. It requires a commitment to dialogue over discord, diplomacy over aggression, and empathy over animosity.
Peace is a state of harmony and tranquility. It is the absence of conflict and disturbance. Peace is quiet, still, and chaos-free. The absence of chaos may be unfamiliar, but lean into it. Peace extends beyond the end of fighting, encompassing the presence of justice, equity, and cooperation. Achieving and maintaining peace requires ownership, empathy, and safe places. Sometimes, you must simply disengage. Cultivating a culture of peace involves the promotion of respect and value for the well-being of others, even your former spouse.
This holiday season, from all of us at R+E, we hope your days are filled with comfort and peace. This year may look a little different, but cherish the little moments and be present. May the coming year bring new happiness, wellness of mind and body, and be the first step toward the fulfillment of renewed desires.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Craig Robertson is the founder of Robertson + Easterling. For over 24 years, he has practiced exclusively high net worth divorce and complicated family law in Mississippi. You will want him on your legal team because he knows the things you care about deeply are at stake, and he will counsel you about wholistic modalities to foster health and wellbeing during difficult circumstances.