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“That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”  Simone de Beauvoir

In her book ‘Forgiveness & Other Acts of Love: finding true value in your life’, Stephanie Dowrick writes openly and compassionately about the six great humane virtues that can transform how we view our selves and relate to other people. They are the qualities of courage, fidelity, restraint, generosity, tolerance and forgiveness. When we live apart from our child, paying attention to these values can support, guide and sustain us at difficult times, like Christmas.

I first read Dowrick’s book in the hope of gaining a greater insight into forgiveness, a difficult practice for many mothers apart from their children as they struggle with the pain of grief and loss. However, once I had the book in my hands, I realised that the virtue of forgiveness was the last chapter and that on reading – courage, fidelity, restraint, generosity and tolerance were important building blocks to the challenging task of working towards forgiveness of others as well as ourselves.

Perhaps the virtue that could sustain us over the Christmas period is that of generosity. Generosity, says Dowrick, expresses and increases love and that every missed opportunity to be generous erodes our experience of love, connectedness and spirit.

Generosity is looking beyond ourselves and understanding that we are all part of the human race. However, we know only too well that life can be unfair and other people can be withholding and malicious. Being repeatedly kind hearted to others who neglect us or treat us badly could at best, be ungenerous to ourselves and at worst, allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of by others. Some women in particular can be overly generous through conditioning or wishful thinking that the favour one day will be returned, from someone who is unable or unwilling to be generous. So we need to be at least as generous with ourselves as we are with others.

When we extend generosity to others, we are in the moment, paying attention to what would be a kind hearted gesture towards them. Whether it is a big act of kindness or a common courtesy, we are momentarily freed from the grind of our dissatisfaction, the hatred we can feel towards others because we are feeling unlovely inside ourselves. Softening our hearts and extending kindness liberates us from resentment, anger, the narrow lens of our own perspective. Generosity allows us to connect to others and feel less alone, we feel a part of the community, a member of the human race. A generous act can lighten a heavy heart.

How can we be generous? It requires that we stop and think, examine our intension, make a choice. It requires will. We hurry down the road and when we choose to allow someone space to come in front of us, we have momentarily stopped and reached out beyond the bubble of ourselves. When we make time for rest when we are tired, we have momentarily stopped the drive to keep going because we think we should. Both of these acts of generosity create a space for a moment of inner peace.

In what ways could we be generous to ourselves and others over the Christmas period and during the year ahead?

Spend time with others and feel connected. Take time alone and replenish yourself.

Make allowances for other people’s stress reactions.

Hurting yourself with punishing thoughts is unnecessary. Until you have evidence otherwise, choose to believe the least hurtful reason for someone letting you down.

Listen to someone without interrupting them, finishing their sentence or moving on to talk about yourself

Let yourself off the hook. You know which hook!

Smile at someone. Smile back at someone who smiles at you.

If you are grieving, allow yourself time for this process.

Be tolerant of others who are not grieving. If you can’t feel happy for them, that’s ok. Do what you need to do to take care of your own feelings.

Do what you need to do to get through the Christmas and New Year period. Do you need to keep to your usual everyday routine? Do you need to make a new Christmas and New Year tradition? Do you need to be happy around your children when you see them but give yourself permission to do and be how you really feel when you are apart? Give yourself at least one treat this Christmas, what do you need – a gift, a walk, to book a holiday, a duvet day, good food, a box set….? Whatever it is, you’re worth it.

Wishing you a peaceful New Year.



Sarah’s new self-help book: A Mother Apart

Support for women

Sarah specialises in counselling and training women. She helps non-resident mothers find inner peace by dealing with guilt, distress and other difficult feelings which can be experienced when living apart from their child. Her self-help book, 'A Mother Apart', published by Crown House, is available now. She also supports business women grow in confidence whilst growing their businesses. To find out more, please visit Sarah Hart's website

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