Christmas Isn’t Merry When You’re #Estranged

christmas

Unmerry Christmas

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Finally….

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.

I promise.

Sometimes Victory Is Just Showing Up

victory

The most super-awesome victory looks like a tiny victory.

When I started this morning’s post, this isn’t at all the subject it was going to be about. Perhaps I’ll save that for another edition of the Hot Mess Express podcast (shameless plug…go and subscribe now…trust me, it’s awesome). Yet as they say…the best laid plans of mice and men…and I had a, well, not sure you could call it a dialogue, but a conversation with someone over FB this morning that pretty much derailed all that.

In the past 18-24 months, more has happened than I think any normal human should ever have to deal with. It’s been rumors, innuendo, backstabbing, anger, bitterness, and hurt feelings all around. I’ve been just as guilty as others. Top that off with having one of your kids hauled off in handcuffs and sent to a mental health facility for a week over Easter weekend, the challenges of helping your kid in coping with mental illness, and seeing another one of your children move out too soon and, well, I’m surprised I’m not a raging drunk or just curled up in the fetal position somewhere, worthless to anyone and anything.

Some awesome life, eh?
Well, my intention was to be real, raw, and uncensored, and this is a peek into my vulnerability, the challenges, the struggles, the abject fucking failures I’ve been through in just the last 24 months.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last couple years is that sometimes just showing up can be your greatest victory.

Today’s one of those days for me.

This will be the first year ever that I won’t be spending Christmas with either of my daughters. This realization has been tough on me, and I’ll be honest, dealing with this hasn’t made me the cheeriest person on the planet to be around. I’ve been cranky, short-tempered, alternating with mopey and sad.

Today, I’m barely holding my shit together to make it through the work day.

If I can make it to the end of the day without losing my fucking shit, that will be my victory.

Somedays….that’s all you can really expect from yourself…and that’s enough.
If you set the expectation that every. single. day. you’re going to slay the dragon, save the prince/princess, and become ruler of the goddamned universe, you’re in for a world of hurt. Neither you nor I can reasonably expect to do that.

Sometimes emotions come along and punch you right in the teeth, demanding to be acknowledged.
Sometimes we’re just angry or sad…sometimes we know why and sometimes we don’t.

It’s those days when victory looks like being dressed, and brushing my teeth.

As of this moment, it’s almost lunch time, and I’ve only been in tears 3 times….that’s less than once per hour so far.

I’ll take that as a victory.