What can you change?
Article on AARP: "The Estrangement" by Jamaica Kincaid

Q&A on Writing and Coping with Estrangement & the Holidays

A reader asked me a question recently. She asked if I had any tips for dealing with the holidays. Another reader asked if I had stopped writing on my blog. I've been thinking about the answers to both of these questions.

The answer to the second question is no, I have not stopped writing on my blog but it is true that I have not written anything here in months. I have not wanted to dwell on estrangement. I have not wanted to write here for a number of reasons, some of which I won't go into because the public nature of my blog is one of the reasons that I don't write about some things.

I am paying attention to Randy Pausch's statement that I quoted in my last post that is now several months old. I am interested in how I "play the hand." The "hand" in this case being the life that I am given and that is the only one that I am going to get as far as I know. I am interested in living my life productively paying attention to opportunities for joy and for my relationships with others in my life whom I love. It is not possible or good for me (or you) to spend a lot of my time, energy and concern on things that I can do nothing about. Thus I spend less time these days thinking about and writing about estrangement as I once did. I do still think about it and write about it regularly within the privacy of a support group, Yes, I still write and I will still write here on occasion but not frequently.

In answer to the first question about tips for the holidays, first I'll say that the question is a good question for this time of year and inspires me to respond with my own strategy for the holidays and for life. This is the time of year when the question of how to cope with the holidays bothers a lot of us who are estranged from relatives. Your ability to cope and to be able to follow any "strategies for coping" will be affected by how recent your loss has been and how much pain you are in. Depression and grief are heavy weights to get out from under. Be patient with yourself. The first suggestion that I have is to resolve to get through the holidays one day at a time. Or one minute at a time if a day is too long a time to think of suffering through.

My losses have gone on for years now. I am not in the kind of pain that someone is who has lost their relative to estrangement in the last couple of years. Please take my suggestions with that in mind. I don't know if my suggestions are possible for you but I do know that moving forward by involving yourself in healthy and interesting projects can help move the grey clouds away. If you go forward and involve yourself in something healthy, you might wake up one morning and not think about the loss that has been weighing you down day after day.

My tip for coping with the holidays is to find something new that intrigues you and gets your mind moving in new directions. I involve myself in looking for new things that interest me. I find the internet to be one place where there is so much happening that is free and fun. There is a site at www.talkshoe.com where people can have their own little call-in radio shows. Not really radio shows but online real time public discussions. Then the shows are archived on talkshoe and anyone can listen to them at any time. It helps to have a fast internet connection to enjoy these sorts of things.

Recently I learned about Viddler where people can upload their own videos. It is somewhat like YouTube but looks less adolescent. I bought an inexpensive little video camera recently to play with and I uploaded a video to test out the site. I had some cheerful delightful responses and I had great fun!

As for the specific days on which holidays fall, I think that it makes sense to consider them just another day but to do something nice for yourself. Something just for you. Enjoy the day as best you can but don't put high expectations on the day. Find something to enjoy about the day without expecting anything like the ideal kind of day that we imagine is happening in other homes. We tend to see the grass as being spectacularly green even when their grass has its share of weeds too. I  think that comparing ourselves to the impossible ideals of fantasy families is a recipe for emotional disaster. Don't ruin your holiday by doing that!

Do something to make the day special. Something you'd like to do. I don't rule out doing something for others. Frequently when you do something for others, it bounces back on you making you feel even better than if you had done something that was only for yourself. So consider one option of being exceptionally selfish by doing something for others and you might well find that you will be the recipient of some unexpected rewards too! (You do realize that I am using the words "exceptionally selfish" in a tongue and cheek sort of way?)

I hope that helps.

Happy Holidays!



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