The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holiday Stress

The pain of family estrangement is often heightened during the holiday season. I clearly remember the anguish I experienced during the initial stages of my fourteen-year estrangement from my entire family of origin. The abrupt loss of my mother, three brothers, and grandparents - months before the holidays - left me paralyzed. The prospect of spending the holidays alone - without any family, or life-long traditions - seemed daunting. What would I do with my two young children? My therapist stated matter-of-factly, "You will create new holiday traditions."

This simple statement seemed like an impossible task.

The first year, I did nothing. I wrongly assumed someone would come to my rescue and invite my daughters and me for the holidays. The next year, I took matters into my own hands, and invited another family we had know for years, for Thanksgiving and Christmas day. They were happy to accept our invitation, because they didn't have any family in the area. This began an annual tradition that provided my children with a new "family of choice."

Granted, the first few years were still difficult. I continued to mourn for my family rather than to appreciate the people right in front of me; however, in time, I realized that I had built new traditions that were far more fun and loving than the old. I made sure my kids anticipated the same holiday activities each year - cookies, music, decorating, planning a menu, and performing community service. Community involvement gave us the sense of being a part of something bigger than we are.

Today, I look forward to the holidays with great excitement and we all look back over the years with warmth, and laughter, reminiscing about prior holidays and the fun we have had together.

My mother's sister is the only family member from whom I was not estranged. The second year of my estrangement, she began including my children and me in her annual Christmas Eve celebration, and has for every year since. I will be forever grateful for her love, support, and our shared history.

My circumstances taught me to appreciate the loving people who are in my life, and not to take my blessings for granted. I've learned through this experience not only to reflect on that for which I am grateful, but to express my words of appreciation to those who have enriched my life.

The Holidays can be the best - or worst time of year.

Wishing everyone peace, love, and the sharing of old, and new traditions!

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