It’s now been two years, three months and 15 days since I have seen a single member of my family (excluding, of course, my husband, kids and Irish in-laws). That’s 838 days, and it’s a long time to go without hugging or having a cup of tea with your parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins.

Of late, I’m thinking a lot about Christmas back home in Canada – ice skating on the pond in our backyard, drinking hot chocolate and boozy eggnog, my dad insisting on barbecuing steaks for dinner (even when there’s a literal blizzard outside) – and feeling homesick.

I don’t feel too sorry for myself; I know I’m not alone. If you have a family member living abroad, their experience is likely much the same. Previously, I always felt that home was just a quick flight away, but the pandemic has changed that viewpoint for me.

As we learn in this week’s Irish Country Living, you can also miss a family member when they’re living in the same area. A divorced father shares how much he misses his son at Christmas time with us this week.

I have spoken with domestic abuse support service Men’s Aid in the lead-up to what they call their “Christmas Crisis Season”. It is widely known that courts tend to find in favour of the mother when granting custody rights during divorce and legal separations. Most couples, when separating, find an amicable solution to child custody which puts the child’s needs first.

Domestic abuse support organisations are severely underfunded in Ireland

According to Men’s Aid; however, a common form of domestic abuse against men is withholding access to children, or encouraging children to alienate their father. Domestic abuse support organisations are severely underfunded in Ireland. A recent study from NUI Galway’s Centre for Global Women’s Studies indicates that, for an average woman leaving an abusive situation, the aggregate cost over 20 years is over €100,000. On a national level, this cost increases to €56bn.

These are not just legal fees; they are the general costs and losses associated with navigating life post-abuse. For example, being less productive at work (many victims end up demoted or will lose their job altogether throughout their journey) as well as the many costs associated with getting back on their feet. For someone like me, who would like nothing more than to spend time with family, it is heartbreaking to imagine being in a situation where it feels impossible to escape.

On a brighter note, I was duly cheered up after visiting with Jim and Kae Ryan at their fabled pub, Jim of the Mills, for this week’s cover feature.

Jim Ryan from Jim of the Mills in Upperchurch is this week's cover star.\ Claire Nash

Sitting down with the Ryans is a tonic for any homesickness, as it is crystal clear that they are at their happiest when simply spending time together.

American agri-columnist Ryan Dennis also made me chuckle with his disappointing realisation that caribou and reindeer are essentially the same animal. That is, until I came across the line “Nothing majestic ever comes from Canada.”

Read about how Ryan Dennis makes a disapointing realisation that reindeer and caribou are essentially the same thing in this week's issue.. \ iStock

I don’t suppose Ryan, coming from New York state, has the Canadian appreciation for the industrious and – yes! – majestic beaver, my country’s national animal, so I’ll let him off with his opinion… this time.

Wishing you all a very happy and safe holiday season!