by Sheri McGregor, M.A.
When it comes to estrangement and the holidays, feeling joyful can be a challenge.
This time of year, parents of estranged adult children can feel very down. They wish things were the way they used to be, they look at all the other happy families, and find themselves alone. In estrangement, for many, the holidays equal pain. This holiday season, won’t you join me in considering how a change in perspective can change our experience?
Estrangement and the holidays:
Change your perspective, change your experience
There’s a funny internet article (or two) about how social media models use perspective to change how they appear. Camera angle and posture work like magic to change the viewer’s perspective, and voila! Abdominal rolls flatten, the booty looks bigger, and the models look slim and fit.
Of course, with estrangement, it’s not as simple as sucking in your belly so you look thin or tucking your tongue to the roof of your mouth to lift a double chin. But when it comes to estrangement and the holidays, your perspective really can make a positive difference. This is true in both how people see you, and how you see yourself and experience the holidays.
Below, I’ll share just a few short thoughts on perspective. These are meant as jumping off points for your own unique ideas and specific ways to view the holidays in a positive light.
Estrangement and the holidays: Are you really alone?
In the U.S., many senior citizens are alone for the holidays. Millions of seniors are by themselves over the holidays. You may feel alone, but you’re not.
When you read that, what did you immediately think of? Did you imagine people sitting at home alone, maybe with a sad face? If so, it’s because of our conditioning about the holidays.
We’re conditioned to think of families and togetherness as the perfect holidays. And that can set us up to believe that if our holiday isn’t like that, then it’s not a good holiday. Seeing the holidays with a more realistic view puts your situation into perspective.
There are many, many people who choose to spend the holidays alone. They’re tired of the hoopla and commercialism. Or perhaps they choose to focus on what’s at the core of holiday meaning for them and view the time as a period of rest and reflection.
Estrangement and the holidays: When will this end?
There are 365 days in a year, and only a few are holidays. Don’t get caught up in the commercial ploy that tries to make everyone think holidays-holidays-holidays for months on end.
Estranged or not, holidays evolve
For all of us, the holidays have changed over the years. This is true whether we face estrangement or not. Think back to the different ways the holidays have evolved for you…even from childhood. To have a good perspective about estrangement and the holidays, consider this just another phase.
When your circumstances evolved in the past, how did you change up the holiday activities to fit? Think about it, when your children were young, you did certain things…. Then you moved to more age appropriate activities. Maybe you used to get together with extended family, and then you no longer did. Families get complicated, and activities change. Sure, we didn’t want or expect estrangement, but it’s our reality (at least for right now). We might as well make the best of the holidays despite it.
If it helps, consider clear back to the first holidays you remember. Make a timeline, or even a scrapbook if that appeals. It’s proof that holiday joy changes.
When things change, we must change, too. We have been flexible before, and we can again.
What will you do now to make YOUR holidays bright? Don’t forget to let YOUR light shine.
Estrangement and the holidays: Is this a plus?
You may be so focused on the sadness and loss that you’re blinded to any positive aspects. Answer honestly: What won’t you miss?
Maybe you won’t have to cook (or cook as much). Maybe you’ll have more money in your budget. Maybe you don’t have to travel. Maybe this way, the holidays won’t interrupt your healthy lifestyle. Maybe, for once, you get to do what you want.
In my book, there’s an exercise to get you thinking about what you don’t miss about your estranged son or daughter. Alter that exercise for the holidays. Doing so can help.
To change your perspective, consider what you will not miss.
Estrangement and the holidays:
Acknowledge your feelings
This is not intended to minimize the sadness parents of estranged adult children can feel. The holidays really can be difficult.
Sadness, longing, anger, envy, bitterness, hatred. . . . All the emotions we don’t like can pile on.
It’s okay to acknowledge those feelings, cry, vent, or reach out for support if you need to. But don’t get stuck there.
If you start to feel down, consider your perspective.
- Remind yourself that you’re not alone in being alone.
- Remind yourself of the way the holidays have changed throughout your life, and think about how you changed right along with them—you’re more flexible than you think.
- Instead of thinking about what you’re losing this holiday season, think about what you’re gaining in the loss. We can all come up with one or two things that are positives.
Be thankful for the good in your life, and take on perspectives that make you feel better.
HUGS to all of you,
P.S. — Read the related posts below for holiday help … and use the search box on the right of the page, using the word “holidays” for even more articles.
P.P.S. — as always, I’d love to hear your perspective on what you can change up to make the holidays good/fun/enjoyable/bright despite estrangement. Leave a reply to this article.
Estrangement and the holidays: Related reading
Abandoned parents, let your light shine
Estranged? Enjoy the holidays anyway
Estrangement and the Holidays: How to manage them