Being estranged from family at Christmas

The Christmas holidays can be a particularly difficult time of year for people estranged from members of their immediate family. The focus on family at this time of year, along with the passing comments and assumptions that you will be spending Christmas with your family, can be especially challenging too. However, the majority of people conceal their position because being estranged from either a parent or a grown child is not something that is readily comprehended by those who are removed from such a situation. There can be complicated feelings of shame and a fear of judgement attached to being estranged—for what does having a fractured relationship with ones family imply about you, and what does it denote about your background?

Coping with these feelings at this time of year can be hard and potentially made more difficult by the perpetual reminders of loss, coupled with an inability to talk about these feelings with understanding others. The loss might not be the loss of the relationship itself, which might have even been harmful to your sense of self and wellbeing. Rather, the loss could be associated with not having the possibility of a supportive and sustainable relationship with those you are estranged from. Such losses need to be acknowledged and grieved, although there can be many barriers to grieving a loss of this nature.

To get through the holiday season, there are some things you can do to support yourself. One important source of support can be to connect with others in a similar position to you through online support groups and communities (links below). Because estrangement tends to be an isolating experience, developing connections and having a place where you can safely speak about your experience can help you cope with what you are going through. Seeking professional support therapeutically can also be beneficial to work through and make sense of your experience. Taking a break from social media might also be helpful, especially as feeds fill up with posts of smiling families together celebrating, creating painful reminders of what is missing. Even when being estranged feels like the right choice, it still hurts and arouses painful feelings, such as guilt and shame. Also, developing a support network through friendships and other relationships is an important part of healing in the longer term. Still, these relationships can be especially important to help you get through challenging times of the year like Christmas or birthdays, for instance.

It can also be helpful to think about how you’ve supported yourself through difficult times before. There might be things you did previously that were helpful that you could use again—perhaps you used to keep a journal, practice yoga, go walking etc. Most importantly, though, is being compassionate and kind to yourself when you are struggling. Creating space for self-compassion is fundamental as part of supporting yourself through the difficulties of estrangement at any time of year.

Below are some links to some online support groups:

Other sources of support:

Expat, Relationships

Expat Relationships : Keeping Your Relationship Healthy

“We are never so vulnerable as when we love.” — Sigmund Freud

Moving overseas is both exciting and anxiety provoking.

A move abroad at any time of life presents a considerable adjustment, with new surroundings to navigate, building friendships, perhaps another language to learn, finding out about cultural differences – the list goes on!

Couples and families move for many different reasons – career, lifestyle or something else entirely. However prepared you may or may not have felt, things can feel extremely challenging at times. It is during significant periods of change that we find intimate relationships tend to come under increased pressure. With our in-built need for security, stability and connection with others, these needs become amplified during periods of change.

Expat relationships

When partners have trouble responding lovingly and sensitively to one another during periods of increased pressure and changes in circumstances, feelings of disconnection can mount and couples can feel increasingly misunderstood and unsteady in their relationship. If this continues, over time, relationship problems can escalate – sometimes to the point where things feel lost or hopeless.

You have made a major life change and it is understandable things have impacted on your relationship – that is difficult for anyone. Big changes make us all feel vulnerable on some level and everyone responds to this differently. Some things that can help are to give yourself time, and to try to be understanding with yourself, and one another, about the challenges you have been experiencing.

Patience and consistency are key too – it can take some time to re-build your connection with one another. Relationships require energy, nurturing and patience to flourish – even more so during the most challenging and demanding periods, but of course, this is often when there are less internal resources available for one another.

Remind yourselves of all the good things about your partner – you might have lost sight of these recently! This is especially important if you find yourself in a negative and blaming pattern with one another. To get back into seeing one another more positively and warmly, try to remember what you love about your partner – what each person brings to the relationship and to value one another. Try to put your energy into seeing these special qualities in action and noticing them.

Or it may be that the time has come where you feel you need some support to help you get things back on track together. This is where some couples therapy can be of help, particularly when communication has become increasingly challenging. It can be difficult to take this step – some might feel they are admitting defeat. However, retrieving a relationship becomes harder the longer things go on unresolved.