Estranged? Enjoy the holidays anyway

estrangement holidaysBy Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Estrangement from adult children has a way of dulling parents’ anticipation of holidays. I’ve already started receiving emails filled with dread. Some parents wonder what they’ll say to family members who ask about their estranged adult child. Many worry how they’ll stay cheerful amidst the family-centric hoopla that reminds them of their loss. Some simply miss their son or daughter and the fun holidays they used to share.

Rather than sit back in dread, be proactive. Here are some ideas to take charge of your thinking and take action for your own well-being.

Control your diet: I’m not talking about food

I’m referring to the steady stream of media that puts holidays front and center as early as pre-estrangement holidaysHalloween. The shopping channels are already airing holiday items. Catalogs are beginning to clog the mail. Food magazines are starting to feature favorites. Reminders are everywhere, but you can choose what you watch, listen to, or read.

Maybe it’s time to donate those brand new issues of food magazines you subscribe to. Rather than open the issues filled with holiday fare, give them away unopened. A young mother with a family on a tight budget might be thrilled to receive those magazines. You’d be doing her and yourself a favor. Don’t know someone in particular? Leave them at a library, offer them to a friend or ask if they know someone who could use them. Drop new magazines at a thrift store, add the issues to one of those mini neighborhood book borrowing stations or into the recycle bin.

Holiday catalogs can trigger all sorts of emotions for estranged grandparents. Why torture yourself by paging through the bright pictures, wondering if the grandchild you no longer get to see still has a mind for science, does gymnastics, or likes to read? Recycle or give them away. If it makes you feel better, leaf through and buy a toy or two for donation purposes. Toy drives abound, and there are needy parents and children who would be grateful for a benefactor.

TV can be an annoying reminder of all we’re not enjoying. Turn it off or turn the channel. As the holiday season accelerates, topic programming and commercials can inundate. Maybe it’s time for a TV diet. People who swear off TV for a set time period report positive effects. More sleep, more time to pursue meaningful activities and relationships, and less mindless eating. Turning off the television could lengthen your life, too. A recent study found that every hour of TV watched reduced lifespan by 22 minutes!

Estrangement? Plan ahead for good holidays

estrangement holidaysHoliday foods, gift items, and décor arrive on store shelves early. For hurting parents whose adult children are estranged, the displays can make a simple trip to the grocer an emotional minefield. While going into hermit mode might not be wise, it’s possible to plan ahead for quicker trips and minimal exposure. Stock up on items you need regularly. When the holidays hit full swing, you’ll be prepared to avoid the shops.

Plan your activities too. Without a plan, the holidays become something to endure for parents who are feeling sensitive because an adult child is estranged. Most of us know that Aunt Betty will invite us as usual or that everyone expects to come to our house for the holiday. Consider now how you feel about these expectations. And know this: it’s okay to make a change. Sit down and make some plans now for what you really want to do this year. Maybe you do smaller dinners with individual family members, or maybe you go camping and avoid the holidays entirely. By planning ahead, you can be kind and let other people know that this year will be different. Change can be good!

Plan what you’ll say, too. When someone chirps, “Only one hundred days till Christmas,” counter with your own quip: “Only 101 till it’s over!” If you’re worried about Aunt Sally or Cousin Sue asking about your estranged adult child, plan your response ahead. (For help, see Chapter Four in Done With The Crying.)

Estrangement? Feed yourself

While controlling what comes in and triggers bad feelings is wise, it’s also important to feed your spirit. This may mean concentrating on the spiritual side of the holidays. Maybe you’ll watch the 2013 The Bible miniseries on Netflix over several evenings (no commercials!), enjoy holiday performances in your community (or find them on YouTube), or attend a choir performance. Some people travel to natural spaces for the holidays, finding the less busy winter months perfect for solitude and peace of mind. To feed your spirit, think of anything that makes you feel good. Is it gardening? Then find a way to do that over the holidays. Is iestrangement holidayst sewing? Make new curtains or homemade gifts. Is there a hobby or vocation you once enjoyed but haven’t participated in for years? The holiday season can be a slow time for independent instructors who might appreciate a new student. Return to something you’ve missed or learn something you’ve never attempted. Take horseback riding or tennis lessons, brush up on guitar, have a go at ice skating, or enjoy Tai Chi or Qui Gong.

Try something different this year—I dare you!

16 thoughts on “Estranged? Enjoy the holidays anyway

  1. Ann

    Both my children say they’re done with me, but continue to send emails/texts with abusive messages. It’s like a scab being picked at.

    1. mastik8

      Call their bluff by asking why, if they are done with you, you keep hearing from them. Abusive messages are the insult added to the injury.

    2. movingongranny

      I just went thru this. I went in and deleted their phone number and when I see anything I immediately delete the message without reading. It was hard, but I was tired of reading the “blame” game.

  2. pixiehair1967

    My other adult child has a new job which may prevent him from coming “home” for this year’s holidays. So we all talked about it and decided that wherever he is, we will go there. Yeah, we talked it over. Compromised. Rather than sitting and thinking about the old days, maybe it is time for a change of scenery.
    So much is expected at the holidays. People become demanding at holiday time and perhaps feel sorry for you if you are hurting for whatever reason. Don’t let them pity you. Make plans. Be” busy”, put your phone to voice mail and text people back . Got your message but busy ! Call them back when you are feeling stronger. Be available for a friend or relative that may be ill or hurting emotionally. They may want to talk, let them talk and talk but then you don’t have to explain or update on why your ES is not there for the holiday or why you aren’t going there. A friend I was dreading to see because of fear of her asking about my ES never asked me about him because I kept asking her about her new grandchild and her job troubles. By the time she finished, there wasn’t time for her to ask about me and mine.

  3. Grace

    Triggers are everywhere. Staying at home is all I do anyway. Want to start back to wards going to church or to other gatherings but with the holidays bearing down all I want to do is sit at home. No one to kick my rear end and get me moving. i feel so dead ended this time of year. Knowing that it is not going to improve with all my estranged adult children. They all have left me. Self righteous attitudes they have not a clue to any of my problems or my life itself. Love to be able to talk with others with my own problems as well. I am alone anyway I look at it. I have no hopes of things improving or any thing different to happen. I think Mother’s Day Christmas and all holidays are wonderful for our adult children. Those are days they remember to forget us. They are so cruel. I am so glad they are happy. As long as I do not come around or bother them it is all wonderful. I so wish for a “normal” family. Being alone is not good when you are the only one left for them on this side of the family.

    1. Jillian

      I feel you
      I haven’t spoke or heard from my daughter in 6months
      No Mother’s Day wishes
      No Happy Birthday
      Now the Holidays are coming
      I am so Dad that I raised a thoughtless Child

  4. Elisa B.

    Grace, My heart goes out to you… I am in the same place. I have been trying for 2 years to reconcile with my three daughters from my first marriage and have been met with coldness, contempt, disgust and just a complete lack of understanding of how their cutting me off has destroyed me. I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t even want to think about the holidays. I feel like a complete and utter failure. This all transpired almost immediately after they all had graduated from college and my oldest daughter was getting married and wanted the $20000 I offered, but did not want me to invite my aunts and uncles (her great aunts and uncles) to the wedding. Instead I was expected to pay for my ex husband and his tribe because he has spent the last 25 years supporting the Atlantic City casinos. I felt used. The fight grew into I had been a bad mother and her 2 sisters quickly jumped in. After all of the insults and forcing myself to go to a wedding where I was completely uncomfortable I waited for my children to call and tell me they had been stressed out and lost their minds and were sorry. I waited and waited. Nothing. So I reached out. But apparently not in the right way because I sounded hurt and angry and they want nothing to do with that. Things went back and forth for months, with me doing most of the reaching out. But I am too emotional for them to deal with so they want nothing to do with me. My daughters husband hates me even though I took him on vacations to st croix and Disney and always treated him like part of the family. I feel lost. Like I don’t know where to go from here. I just ordered the done crying book but I’m sure I’m not done crying. I am no longer trying to reach out and hoping that they will. But I kinda think they won’t for a long time. And I truly am tired of crying.

    1. Jillian

      Wow your too good
      I send monthly packages
      I think I love to much
      It’s time we bitch up & not beg for their love

  5. Lyne M.

    Elisa B…..So glad you ordered Sheri’s book. I too am new to all of this and in a similar place. I am also not done with crying but I would so very much like to be. I’ve only read the first three chapters but I’ve found it helpful. I’m careful to take it in small doses then think about what I’ve read for a couple of days then pick it up again. It has helped a lot. I feel my journey of healing is going to take a very long time but at least (thanks to the book) I can see a road in front of me which I could not see before. Granted, the steps I’m taking are only baby steps but at least I’m moving forward. I’m sure you will to.

    1. rparentsrparents Post author

      Dear Lyne,
      I have received two contacts from you through the contact form and have tried to reply but the email only bounces. Please use the form and send a different email address so I can reply to it. Thank you. — Sheri

    2. movingongranny

      I also got the book, it was hard going thru and not cry but… I find it is getting better for me and my sanity. I had to really look at myself and how I was treated. I told my 2 girls I was moving somewhere warm and then all hell broke loose. 1 doesn’t want me in their life the other sends pictures of 1 year old; is nice then says mean things. I am starting to pack to move so I said “you’ve made the decision to cut me out, so now I will move on”. I gave those girls 40 plus years, the both have their own families and yet when I want to go have fun; I should stay at home and be at their beckon call… No way. My hubby and I are finally doing what we want!!!
      Good luck to you… keep reading the book and doing the exercises. I keep re-reading it!!
      Love this site! God Bless!


    I was already informed by my ES that the holidays will not be spent with family. (What family is left.) My ES was asked by a friend to visit their parents. They have only dated a few months and my ES is not even sure to make this a long lasting relationship. So you know where I stand in the order of things. I would love to go away for the holidays, but my elderly parent cannot make a trip. So the holidays, will just be my small family. I have been an after thought for a long as I could remember, if thought of at all, in most cases. Everyone my ES meets is wonderful and she loves them all. Calls them weekly. Does wonderful things for them to celebrate a milestone in their lives. And, I believe my, ES just loves telling me these things to drive the dagger in a little further. And believe me the ES knows what they are doing. Last attempt to, hopefully, get to the bottom of this estrangement I was told that by my ES does not want to change and it will never be the relationship that other parents have with their children because the ES cannot be like them. My ES does not even tell you much in their life so when I call, text, etc. there is nothing much to talk about. Bless my ES, she is very smart and successful. People tell me that one day my ES will wake up…even if it is after I am gone, but I don’t think that will happen. She is very self reliant and feels the need for no family. I grew up in a close knit family. My ES has also experienced this family closeness. I don’t know what I did to get this from my ES and my ES will not tell me. I guess I am getting blamed for whatever mistakes where made in life. If I knew what, if anything, that I did wrong I would whole heartily apologize. But I cannot do that if my ES won’t talk. The only conversation I can have with my ES is when you are praising her. My ES will be the first to put me down and make me feel stupid and low and always in front of people because my ES knows I will not make a scene. How So many times I have been embarrassed. A huge hole is in my heart and I need to stop typing this because many upsetting emotions are rising and I don’t want to cry anymore.
    Thank you for this website.

  7. FoundPeace

    I agree with this article. I am estranged from my son too. It does get better as time goes by. I have stopped crying and do not think about him much.

    Let them earn your love.

    I removed him when I redid my will.

    Trips were planned during family holidays and Mother’s Day. We have to rely on ourselves to make us happy.

    I hope you all find peace and happiness.

  8. Emma

    The problem I have with the holidays is that everyone talks about their plans, their get togethers with their families and then they ask about yours. It is all I can do to not burst into tears sometimes. We have no parents left, my only sibling lives in another country. First, there is Thanksgiving to get through and then it’s Christmas. So it is at least 2 1/2 months of listening to people’s plans. It’s just about more than I can take.

  9. Lynne

    Oh yes, this time of the year I begin to think about the holidays. For many years it had been such a very sad time. I hated to see the holidays approaching. I now think of the holidays as just 24 hour days. Thanksgiving day just 24 hours and Christmas day just 24 hours. My journey to where I am now has been a 10 year one. I do look at other people that seem to have those wonderful family holidays and can feel momentarily sad….but then try to turn my mind to My blessings. Again, I think to myself they are just another 24 hour day and a day goes by so quickly.


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