Estranged From Family at the Holidays: 7 Ways to Cope
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Are you estranged from family this holiday? Or maybe you are dealing with a family rift.
I know how you feel. I spent 7 years estranged from my family, and it was awful. Frankly, it sucked. The holidays were the worst because they reminded me things were not right in my life.
And I felt powerless to change it or make it go away. Instead, I suffered silently.
Some of you know exactly what I mean. You may not be estranged, but you have serious problems in your family of origin. Perhaps a rift between siblings, parents, or cousins.
Whatever the problems, it is hard for you to celebrate the holidays because of a strain or a complete family break from those who you used to call family.
In this post, I am going to talk about how it feels to be estranged from family during the holidays, and some tips to help you manage through the season.
Of course, the best plan of action would be to reconcile, but if this is not possible, there are some ways to help you survive the next couple of months.
Estranged from Family at the Holidays
If you have family issues, you know how bad it feels to be estranged at the holidays. For me, the holidays didn’t just reinforce loss, there was always a good amount of shame that slapped me in the face for about three months.
From October to December, I swallowed my heart and held my nose through all the good cheer. For many years, I tolerated the holidays, hoping it would end and fast.
Don’t get me wrong, I created family memories with my kids, decorated, sang all the songs, and ate my fair share of turkey and pumpkin pie.
But the shame lurked deep in the recesses of my soul, reminding me my family was broken. I felt broken, too. I missed family members, and it hurt.
It hurt more than you can imagine.
When friends would ask what I was doing on the Big Day, I always felt the need to make my life sound extra happy and fun. And that I was doing just fine. I hid the fact that I was angry and even depressed about the hole that was in my heart.
I spent many hours replaying (obsessing) the last days before the family break, never quite understanding how things got so bad.
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And then all the lies started…
Unfortunately, all the garbage I believed about myself rolled around in my head, telling me things that were not true. Feelings of rejection, abandonment, and aloneness penetrated my heart and sent me to places I never wish to go again.
Those horrible thoughts of inadequacy and shame day after day relentlessly accused me of my failure while everyone else was singing “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”
There was very little joy in my world and my nights were silent. And I felt like there was no hope of it ever getting better. There were days I wanted to stuff the Elf on the Shelf in the freezer and call it quits.
It wasn’t until I started doing some of these suggestions I list below that I felt relief.
Especially volunteering. That helped the most.
This song is absolutely beautiful. I think it says what many can not verbalize in words.
After seven years of being estranged, I decided to fervently pray and fast. I asked God to help me get back to my family.
I prayed 2016 would be the last Christmas I would spend estranged. Miraculously, God answered my prayers. Strangely, it was the misery of the holidays that pushed me to get serious about my situation.
In 2017, I reconciled with my family. and, subsequently, spent Christmas with them last year. It was a joyous time. God came through in a big way.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just one day we started talking, and all was well.
There were a few miracles that put us back together. And we have had to work through some things and swallow our pride. More importantly, we have all worked on forgiveness.
RELATED: My Story
For those of you who are not at this point yet, there are some ways to make the best of the holidays. I learned how to create good family memories with my own family. I didn’t want my broken heart to sour things for everyone else. There are some things you can do to reverse the pain.
Things to Do When Estranged from Family at the Holidays
1. Focus on others
My husband and kids started feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving morning. It was such a great way to start the day. It became a meaningful time for us, and it set the tone for the day.
We did other volunteer projects, but this was really special. Focusing on others helped me to realize how much I had to be grateful for. And it helped me not to obsess on my family break.
2. Attend church services
Advent is such a great time to bond as a family and focus on the real reason for the season. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the holidays without my faith.
I prayed during the 2016 holidays that it would be the last holiday I would spend without my family. God was gracious and answered my prayers. Whether you reconcile or not, prayer is the only thing that can change things.
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It is important to live your life…move forward. Give yourself permission to smile and celebrate the season. There is no point in ruining everyone else’s holiday because you are sad. Tuck those feeling away, and save it for your journal.
5. Process your feelings
Put your feelings down on paper. Write through the pain. It is a healthy way to process your feelings about the holidays. If you don’t want to journal, talk with someone. If you are really bitter, talk to a counselor.
6. Create a family of choice
Find another family or friends to do things with during the holidays. You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends.
7. Make your own family memories
Start your own family traditions. Make the season something that you and your family look forward to every year. I found this to be difficult the first year or two, but then it became easier after the traditions were in place for several years. My kids helped make the season fun because of their excitement.
There are many other things you can do to get through the holidays, but I found these things most helpful. My prayers go out to you and those you love. I know how hard it is to get through these couple of months.
God loves you. You are not alone. He will never leave you or forsake you.
Check out these verses. They will encourage you through a difficult time and help you to get through the pain. I pray you will make the most of your holiday and live your life to the fullest. May God’s love shine on you during this most difficult time.
What do you do to get through the holidays?
Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!
Are you experiencing family problems or even estranged? Are you feeling shame, anger, or rejection? Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store.
This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement from my Christian family, but it also gives solid tips to help you with your own family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.
Creating Family Memories Book
Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family in a way that allows more time to be intentional with your kids. It includes a schedule too. You can get it at your favorite bookstore.
Join Christian Family Living Facebook Group
Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Family Living. This is a place for Christian women to share their experiences and get helpful tools to navigate the Christian life. We love to laugh, cry, and encourage each other to live out our faith one day at a time.
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