As we embrace the holiday season, filled with its customary warmth and family festivities, it’s essential to recognize that this time can present unique challenges for parents and adult children navigating estrangement. If you are in this situation, please know you’re not walking this path alone.
This holiday season will be the fifth year of my being estranged from an adult child and his family. My husband and I have come a long way since our first missed holiday. As you know, if you are reading this, the grief comes in waves. Some days, I am on the acceptance train, and others – tumbling once again, but for only enough time to get back up. My heart goes out to everyone who hurts and is cut off.
I often hear a spectrum of closeness and coldness, guilt, anger, regret, remorse, and lots of pain. The good news is, if we work at moving forward, one foot in front of the other, we feel less distressed. We learn much about ourselves and others and gain insight into self-compassion and empathy. Wherever you are on the spectrum, I hope you find joy despite the condition of your family.
Here are some heartfelt suggestions to help parents and adult children gracefully navigate the holidays with self-compassion. Remember, support is available every step of the way.
Embrace the ebb and flow of emotions during the holidays. Allow yourself the space to feel and process emotions – sadness, grief, or a hint of anger – without judgment.
Contact your trusted circle – friends, family, or therapists. Engaging in an open conversation about your feelings can be like lifting a weight off your shoulders and providing valuable support.
Some traditions may feel burdensome. Please take a moment to reconsider and adjust them to better align with your emotional well-being.
Inject joy into the season by creating new traditions. Whether volunteering, exploring your creative side, or spending time with supportive friends, make sure these activities bring a sense of fulfillment.
Seek the comforting company of friends or family who understand. Share your feelings with those you trust, allowing them to be a source of warmth and understanding during the holidays. Be sure to arrange holiday plans with those who love and value you. You can tell a friend you would like to join their family celebration.
Consider connecting with online communities or support groups for parents and adult children facing similar experiences. Sharing with others who understand can offer insights and a sense of solidarity.
Put yourself first. Whether immersing yourself in a good book, taking serene nature walks, or enjoying quiet moments, dedicate time to activities that bring you peace and relaxation.
Establish boundaries to safeguard your emotional well-being. Communicate your needs – whether it’s avoiding specific topics or deciding on your desired level of social engagement.
Incorporate mindfulness techniques to stay grounded. Activities like meditation or mindful breathing can be your anchor, helping you savor the present moment.
Acknowledge your strength. While the holidays may accentuate what’s missing, they also allow you to celebrate your resilience and find joy despite the challenges.
Reach out to a therapist or counselor if needed. Their professional guidance can offer tailored coping strategies and a safe space to explore your emotions.
Take this moment to reflect on your personal growth. Set intentions for the upcoming year, align your goals with your well-being and focus on positive steps forward.
Embrace this time, as the holidays are uniquely yours, and there’s no universal way to navigate them. Extend warmth and compassion to yourself, recognizing that this season holds the potential for healing and personal growth.
Estrangement can be a decision you made for your well-being, or you may be cut off not of your choice. You can choose to create a nurturing narrative moving forward during the holidays. Some may desire a departure from the usual holiday traditions.
Participating with others during the holidays might bring you comfort.
Whether it is your first holiday or it’s been years of being estranged, you can navigate towards moving forward by honoring your strength and resilience.
Many adult children and parents who grieve over the loss of the relationship status hope for the repair of the relationship. Unfortunately, this outcome is rarely possible due to the history of abusive behavior of their family members. In other cases, hope remains that someday, as others have reconciled, so could they. Whatever the history and details of the family breakdown, we can enjoy the company of others and holiday traditions.
Likewise, we gain insight by moving towards simultaneously grieving or longing for someone and embracing joy in ordinary moments.
Remember, you’re not alone in this journey; warmth and support surround you.
Cheers to a cozy and supportive holiday season!
What will you do differently this holiday season? What new holiday traditions can you engage in this year?