My children don't come home for Christmas. My son hates me!

I'll have a blue Christmas without you, Elvis croons from our radio For many the holidays is not "the most wonderful time of the year" but "the hardest time of the year." Our children don't come home for Christmas. Our son hasn't called in three years. We have grandchildren we have never met and gifts pile up under our tree unopened. We haven't heard from our sister in six years. Our Father has left us for his new family. We receive a holiday card from our StepMom with a family photo sadly missing the one who use to have the title, 'Daddy's Little Girl.'  I need to keep my daughters away from my toxic family. I don't invite Dad for Christmas dinner anymore, or for any dinners, due to the bullying he imbuked upon my youngest son who affirmed his gender identity. 

Estrangement. Some of us have spent years in this dark dungeon of hurt, judgment and tears. Thirty percent of Americans are estranged from a family member and research suggests over 40 per cent have experienced estrangement. In England, one in every 5 families will experience estrangement at some point in their lives. It is hard to say what the corresponding numbers are in Canada for I have uncovered no similar studies. However, my family has experienced estrangement of a son and a father over the past decades. Reason? According to psychologists, divorce and remarriage is the usual culprit. But, more and more adult children are breaking away from their parents because their beliefs are toxic to themselves and their children. 

Those estranged receive the usual Christmas letters from families and friends with the Hallmark perfect smiles showcasing togetherness and bouncing new babies. Now we are back shopping, we are running in to those who recognize our eyes over the mask and motion for us to stop and catch up on family gossip.  And, many of us have nothing to share.  

What do you tell Nosy Nicolette and In-Your-Face Beatrice when they ask you how your kids are and you haven’t heard from them in two years? Or, if your Mom is still seeing 'that' new man after your Father's passing.

What do you say? NO-thing. You don’t have to say a thing. You don't have to make pleasantires, excuses or spew lies. NO-thing said! 

BE SELFISH. If you think you’re going to feel anxious, angry, upset or jealous when you’re invited somewhere family members will be gathering, don’t go. And, no explanation is required but your apologies you will be unable to attend.

Mothers in particular, have a hard time declining an invitation. Mothers on average do not prioritize their own well-being. Moms are socialized to put themselves last and worry about hurting other people’s feelings. This concern for others over themselves shuts down their ability to think through what is in their best interest. And, the phrase “grin and bear it,” comes to mind for this set.

Take time for your needs, Mama. Skip the cookie exchange. #shoplocal to provide a wide variety of treats on your holiday table.  Caniche French Bakery in the Village of Ancaster is my go to for mouth watering Pain au Chocolat or City of Burlington’s renowned gluten free Turtle Doves for sweet and savoury; guaranteed to bring a smile! You've just received a Free Pass to skip any holiday anxiety that does just that - make you anxious. 

However,  I don’t recommend this to be a strategy for everything in your life because avoidance isn’t a good strategy to deal with painful feelings that need to be let go. Hence, where I came up with “letitgowithreiki. But, the holidays pack a powerful punch when “It’s A Wonderful Life” is streamed from every street corner.

Self-care plays a vital role in the healing process. It encompasses everything from your mindset about life to how you interact with your world. Self-care isn't all about champagne and lollipops. When you take the time to connect with yourself and be fully present in the moment, you allow yourself to be open to the possibility of movement. a shift to new opportunities.

Another way to keep in the present moment is to shift your activity. Being brought back by popular demand this December is the Advent Activity Calendar – #25ActsofJOY! Let It Go with Reiki suggests daily activities of kindness and joy  to help others to take the focus off of your sad thoughts. It is in the act of giving that we are truly gifted – with the pure pleasure of a stranger’s smile, the giggle of a sick child … simple acts of kindness to bring joy to not only others but ourselves! I challenge you to join us – every day on our Instagram page a new activity will be posted. @letitgowithreiki If you haven't thrown dimes on the sidewalk and watched the excitement of a child finding them on their way to school or candy cane bombed cars  at your local medical centre - you have got to experience it for yourself this holiday! Or, get others involved and make it a group activity.

There is no quick fix for estrangement. Families are messy. But, you can care for yourself and in doing so improve your health and coping skills. And, when you run into Nosy Nicolette and she goes on and on, interrupt her to finalize the conversation with a smile and the words, “All is well.” Sincerely wish her well and then let it go.