Christmas. It’s that time of year when everyone is a little sappier, happier, and love seems to fill the air. It’s a time for friends and family, to celebrate the memories of the last year. Yet for many people, Christmas is a time of sadness and of longing. It’s a time of mourning relationships gone by and of remembering people who are no longer here. And for some, it’s a time that simply reminds them that they’ve been cast aside by those they love.
This will be the second Christmas I am estranged from my two daughters. I know there will be no cards in the mail, no text messages coming from them. They’ve made the decision that they don’t want anything to do with their dad.
That’s the choice they’ve made.
Honestly, since everything went down, I dread the holiday season. Actually, my dread begins in early November, my birthday month, and runs through the first of the year. Last year I didn’t put up a tree or hang lights on the house. This year, though, the tree is up and there are some lights on the house. In fact, that’s my tree in the photo accompanying the post. I made the decision to at least try to whip up some Christmas spirit despite my generally blue mood.
The jury is still out on whether it’s working or not…
At least I’m trying.
Smacked Right In The Face
When your world turns upside down, sticking with ‘traditions’ can make your depression worse. Memories of how things used to be can keep you trapped in your sadness and prevent you from enjoying the good things in your life.
Trust me, I know.
Last weekend we went to church for the first time in a long time. I absolutely love the advent season and everything it represents. Walking into the church, I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. I looked around, saw the Chrismon tree, the greens hung from the rafters, and when the congregation started singing the Christmas carol processional, it was all I could do to keep from breaking down in tears.
The most maddening thing about being estranged from my daughters is that there isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t miss them. Not a moment goes by where something triggers a memory that causes my heart to ache. I’ve come to accept that that empty feeling is not ever going away…and dammit, those dad/daughter commercials are my kryptonite!
Beat The Christmas Blues
So, what’s a person to do?
- Talk it out
A few weeks ago, I began a series of videos called Estranged on YouTube. It’s a way for me to talk about my struggles, to reach out to others, and to offer advice on how I cope. This has been pretty therapeutic. The catharsis of letting out what I’ve been holding in has allowed me to breathe and process what I had been avoiding. Talking it out, whether with someone you trust, or via a blog, video, or podcast, helps you to release the sense of shame that goes along with being an estranged parent.
- Start New Traditions
Hanging on to old traditions, hoping things will be like they used to be, is totally unhealthy. Why not start some new traditions? Go see a movie or a play. If the weather permits, take a hike or visit the beach. Start your journey to healing by finding something you enjoy and do it.
- Practice Gratitude
It’s easy to focus on what is missing during this season. Instead, focus on the abundance currently in your life. Start a gratitude journal and at the end of every day, write down at least 3 things you’re grateful for. Do this for a month and watch how your worldview changes.
- Find A Community
There are a jillion online and off-line communities of people experiencing the same struggle you are. Find them. Connect with them. Share your story with them. You’ll find having the support of others will help you feel less alone in your down times.
- Ease Up On The Booze
Alcohol is a depressant. Although we like to believe we drink to forget, drinking only makes depression worse. It’s ok to have a drink or two to celebrate or with a meal. Just don’t let 1 or 2 turn into 9 or 10 as a way to cope. Besides, almost nobody loves a slobbering drunk.
- Don’t Give Up
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t think you can go on, or are contemplating suicide, Call 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Hotline right away. The world needs you and your awesomeness.
You can do this. You will get through this.
You’ll have good days and bad days, to be sure, but it will get better.