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, November 23, 2008

As the Holidays Approach.......

...So too, does the stress of the season. When dealing with family estrangement, the holidays seem to illuminate our losses.

I recall the pain I felt as I watched other families gather together in what appeared to be loving harmony, or at least a sense of belonging. I felt ripped off! Throughout the first years of my family estrangement, I suffered through the holidays, and other significant events nursing my wounds, while I tried to cope with my feelings of exclusion and rejection.

After a few years of allowing myself the space to mourn my losses, I filled my holidays by honoring new connections.

If you are recently estranged, take heart that the pain of estrangement and that of dealing with the holidays does lessen with time. Mourning is a necessary part of the process. When we are done mourning the old, we make room for the new.

The following is a reprint of one of my very first posts:

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!


mile191 said...

for a lot of years we just have had thanksgiving alone. my husband and kids. we have a gratitude box, we put blessings in. the kids make it fun. this year we are going to go to my adopted family thanksgiving. it should be fun. this is the time of year my mom killed herself. makes thanksgiving with this family a sad and sometimes difficult time. i am hoping for the better, not the usual. take care. thanks for your post.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

The reminder of your mother's death must make Thanksgiving doubly difficult for you. I’m sorry.

The gratitude box is a wonderful idea. Thank you for sharing it.

I hope that spending the day with your adopted family transitions into another warm holiday tradition.

Warm wishes,