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Navigating the Holidays with Grace When Dealing with Estrangement

By Marie Morin November 19, 2023 Family

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.

Give Yourself Permission to Feel

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.

Share Your Emotions

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.

Reevaluate and Modify Traditions

Some traditions may feel burdensome. Please take a moment to reconsider and adjust them to better align with your emotional well-being.

Introduce New Joyful Traditions

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.

Surround Yourself with Support

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.

Join Supportive Communities

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.

Prioritize Your Well-Being

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.

Set Clear Boundaries

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.

Practice Mindfulness

Incorporate mindfulness techniques to stay grounded. Activities like meditation or mindful breathing can be your anchor, helping you savor the present moment.

Celebrate Your Resilience

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.

Consider Therapeutic Guidance

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.

Reflect and Plan for the Future

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!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What will you do differently this holiday season? What new holiday traditions can you engage in this year?

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I have recently left my covertly abusive husband finally, after a 31 year marriage. This Thanksgiving Day is tough. His whole family is intact and having a big gathering at the house I own with him, but am not allowed in, while my entire family is estranged, due to a series of events over the past 10 years. Events which I now recognize as instigated by my ex as a way to dominate me. I was close to several members of his family, so this is an especially hurtful time as none of them have reached out to me this week. I get it: it’s their dad. I’m not their mother. I’ve been coached by a friend to be gracious if any of them calls. To practice keeping my voice light and easy-going. I tell myself this is my first real challenge on my walk forward and out of the grasp of victimization. I had planned to be with friends who know my situation, but I caved. I really prefer to be alone, get some things done in my new place. Make my bed. Clean the bathroom. Hang a few pictures. Just keep myself grounded. And this evening I’ll do some crafting. I CHOSE to leave an untenable situation. That thought alone gives me comfort.


It has been 7.5 months of estrangement from both of my sons. I don’t have the answer(s) as to the reason(s) behind the estrangement. They have been no contact — totally cut me off.. It’s been a heartbreaking time. I was blindsided, since we always seemed to be close … or so I thought.

I’ve decided to go out of town for Thanksgiving and may do the same for Christmas. The birthday of the older of my sons falls the day after Thanksgiving this year. I didn’t want to stay home and ruminate, so going out of town for a few days sounded like a good plan.


Hi Yvonne:
Thank you for writing. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I am grateful that you are actively working on doing things that prioritize your well-being. Going out of town and changing what you would do, is an excellent plan. We can choose to curtain the time we spend ruminating by intentionally doing other things we enjoy. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!! I’m glad you shared.


It has been three years since I have seen my second-born son, his wife, and their child – my only grandson. I have been cut off, not of my choice . . . and for reasons TOTALLY UNKNOWN to me – and without any explanation – my son decided to cut me out of his life. I cannot say I haven’t been hurt . . . but I can handle it, because I refuse to allow anyone, including my own son, to dictate my happiness or lack thereof. Is this estrangement what I wanted or ever dreamed would happen?? – NO . . . but for the most part, I am doing okay and am peace with this. My son’s behavior – in coldly eliminating me from his life, without any explanation, whatsoever – has permanently altered the way I feel about him. Even if he wanted to talk with me, again (and yes, I would do so), I will never again be able to trust him with my heart. It is what it is. I will stay strong – and he will have to figure out his life. I wish him well.


Hi Amy:
I’m so sorry your son has cut you off without any opportunity to work it out. This messy thing we call estrangement can be so mind-boggling. I do appreciate your sharing your determination not to allow your peace or happiness to be taken away unless he and his family are in your life. I understand how you might feel that you could not trust him with your heart. It sounds like you are moving forward. thank you for sharing.


I suggest taking a holiday trip. It should be with a group and not solo. In past years I have been to Rancho La Puerta in Mexico, on a river cruise in Europe, etc. There are many group tours, cruises, etc., and there’s also an informative website called Solo Travel. The distractions of even a simple trip is very positive.


Hi Angela:

I love this idea!! Yes, take a trip, Thank you for sharing the Solo Travel. I will pass this on.
Enjoy your trip!!

The Author

Marie Morin is a therapist and wellness coach at Morin Holistic Therapy. She helps women develop a daily self-care routine, so they overcome perfectionism and limiting beliefs and be their most confident selves. Marie is a grateful blogger and YouTuber. Find out more at and contact her at

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