Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Being Alone


The Ghosts of Dysfunctional Christmas Past  emerging from broken

When I was fifteen years old, it was my father’s turn to have us kids for Christmas. I was the middle child of three teenagers. We lived with our mother just outside of Toronto Ontario.  We were going to take the train to our fathers house in Montreal Quebec. But my mother didn’t want me to go that year. My mother guilt tripped me about how alone she would be and how hard it would be for her to be by herself for Christmas. 

So I stayed with her and my brothers went to Montreal without me.

My insecure and narcissistic mother was always painting such nasty pictures of my father, and deep down I was extremely torn between the two of them.  I knew it would make my mother happier if I turned against him and I was always worried about her happiness. I felt guilty for wanting to see my father. I did not want my mother to know that I actually wanted to go to my fathers place for Christmas. SO when I decided not to go there for Christmas, I thought that my compliance with my unloving mother’s wishes in the case of that Christmas would gain me great points with her! I believed that finally I was going to prove to her that she was the most important person to me and then she would finally love me! I had dreams and hopes of having a wonderful mother daughter Christmas with all kinds of bonding. I thought we might watch movies together, maybe go shopping, or even out to lunch! I thought we would buy special food that I could prepare for the two of us and I really thought “my sacrifice” of staying home from my Father’s was going to pay off really big. I thought that finally I was going to prove my worthiness to my mother.

My man addicted narcissistic mother found a new love interest that Christmas season.  Guess what happened? I was left alone while she did everything with her new man.  I saw my selfish self centered mother on Christmas Day when we went to her girlfriends for Christmas dinner. She didn’t tell me that her boyfriend was going to be there too.  I felt trapped because it was too late for me to change my mind and go to my Dad’s. She flirted and giggled with her boyfriend the whole day. She didn’t seem to notice me that entire holiday season. There were no movies, no special meals, no bonding or shopping, in fact my Mom’s girlfriend felt so sorry for me that she took me out to dinner one night with her boyfriend so I didn’t have to be alone every day and night of my Christmas holiday from school.

I still remember the confusion I felt about that whole thing. I felt so “thrown aside”.  I don’t know that I had ever felt such a depth of rejection like I did over this one which is kind of interesting to note because I had suffered far worse rejection over the years from both my parents.  I think that the shock of it hit me before my dissociative coping method kicked in.  I was stunned speechless that my own mother would do that to me. I had sacrificed my Christmas with my father, brothers and new baby half sister for HER. And she ditched me. She didn’t even apologize.  I was so unimportant to her that I am sure she didn’t even think she has done anything wrong. She completely disregarded my feelings. It was so blatantly obvious that my selfish self-centered mother didn’t care about ME.

I felt so guilty that I had stayed home from my father’s house. Although my narcissistic mother talked me into staying with her I was far more angry with myself than I was with her! I felt like I had been tricked and that I should have “known better”.  I was 15 and I was in total denial of her manipulative ways and I told myself this was my own fault. I was accustomed to being the one at fault and this was no exception.  I felt guilty and impatient with myself for feeling rejected. 

That was the last Christmas day that I have spent with my mother. As I got older I felt really bad (wrong, guilty, ashamed) that I did not spend Christmas with my mother after that hurtful Christmas when I was a teenager, accepting as always and as I had always been “taught” that it was MY responsibility to arrange it and that it was up to me to go to see her and to initiate all those types of plans. I harbored a secret suspicion against myself that I purposely would not see her because of that Christmas when I was fifteen.  Deep down I (falsely) believed that I was probably “getting revenge” on my mother for that horrible Christmas I spent alone. As usual, I was my own judge jury and executioner. That was the way I had been taught to be, always looking at why it was my fault.

My Parents and I have lived in different Provinces and even in different countries since I was 19 years old. When I was about 45 years old, I suddenly realized that neither of my parents ever once has made an effort to include me in any of their Christmas plans. Neither of them has ever suggested that we see each other for Christmas even when I produced three grandchildren. They didn’t ever make the effort to be with me for the holidays. I was not the only one who had not initiated plans.

In my recovery from dysfunctional family stuff, I realized that relationship is not one sided. Finally that guilt, shame and the belief that I was still executing revenge against my selfish mother from when I was a teenager, subsided and I saw the truth about the situation.  She was the Mother. She was the ADULT. She was wrong. She constantly treated me like I was nothing. She constantly put me last. She never looked at her treatment of me as anything that I was not deserving of. She constantly accused ME of being selfish and self-centered and I was so busy trying harder that I didn’t realize it was NOT me.  I didn’t realize her punishing attitude was wrong and it was likely meant to deter me from realizing the actual truth. I have nothing to be ashamed of and as for not going to my father’s house; I was manipulated into staying home.  I was only fifteen. None of this was my fault. I had to realize this truth. None of the facts of this dysfunctional Christmas event defined ME. The facts about that Christmas defined my mother. They show HER true colors. I was not the cause of the dysfunction in our mother daughter relationship.

My life is brilliant since I have embraced the truth. Christmas is a wonderful magical time for me now as I have overcome the baggage of that past and move forward with my new life in freedom.

Please share your thoughts. Emerging from Broken has a facebook page but this website and the comments here are NOT connected to that page. Your comments will not show up on facebook. Your identity is safe as long as you don’t use your full name in the comment form.

Happy Holidays to all of you who celebrate.

Darlene Ouimet

Note: I wanted to write a series of articles that relate to dysfunctional family Christmas and family issues, but this event is the youngest Christmas Memory that I have. I have often wondered why the heck I can’t remember any Christmas mornings.  I can’t remember even one time of finding presents under the tree before the age of that year when I was fifteen.

Related Post ~ part two of this post:  Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Giving the wrong Gift

Thanksgiving, Christmas and Dysfunctional Families

Dysfunctional Lables and Dysfunctional Family History



Categories : Family



Merry Christmas, Darlene and all others here!

I am just thankful that my kids can enjoy Christmas without all the drama, guilt and baggage I carried as a child. Christmas for me is still sad. I can remember being excited for gifts as a child and as my husband says, my childhood house looked like a toy store vomitted all over the living room, but in the end, all those gifts left me feeling empty inside. I could never quite figure out why back then but I know now. It was all manipulation. Glad it’s over.

Best wishes.


Your story is so familiar . . . I’ll never forget the year I left my first husband. My mother invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her and my step-dad so I wouldn’t be alone on the first holiday since I’d left him, but when I overslept and called to tell her I was going to be later than expected getting there, my step-dad didn’t have a clue that I was even supposed to be there. My mom had actually left to spend Thanksgiving with her sister in FL 3 days earlier, and he was going to a friend’s house for dinner. (At least I didn’t make the 3 hour drive in the rain only to find an empty house.)

I’m glad you’ve finally come to understand that none of that was your fault, and are able to enjoy Christmas now.


WOW! How revealing!! I have been through simialr events, so this just makes me laugh at this point. We are to the point where we just do what we want and no guilt. It is so much better than the misery.


My most enduring memory of Christmases growing up is my Mother’s obsession with doing laundry in the middle of us opening presents. One year my sister and I went through the whole house the night before and washed every piece of dirty laundry. Sure enough, she still left at the happiest most excited moment to go do laundry. It always made me feel like I was worth less than that stupid laundry – that she’d rather be doing any thing else than be around her kids. The only thing that topped it was the year after the divorce when she stole our Christmas gifts for drug money.
I’ve found that my best Christmases have been the solitary ones, or with friends. At least now I can make my own choices on what to do for Christmas, and they are at least bearable. I’m not quite far enough to say they are good, but I’ll take bearable.


Merry Christmas to all those beautiful and special daughters of nar momsters. May you all receive love from other sources and I pray you will stop going to empty wells to drink as you will always end up feeling thirsty.

Always go to wells that overflow with water (love) and you will never be thirsty again.

I am here sitting alone with my rescue cat on christmas day at peace and in the knowledge that I am ok and the problem never was and never will be me. Hope you all find peace in your lives and hearts too.


I’ve been ill for a while and unable to go to my Mum’s home for Christmas like I always have done. My mum, sister and her partner have chosen not to spend Christmas at mine and have given me no reason why, so I am spending it on my own. I don’t understand as we have always spent Christmas together before. There is more to it – since I’ve been ill my family have been less than supportive. Looking back with my eyes open I can see that I was never a priority for my Mum, I was never shown love or affection or value. She still doesn’t value me and her actions prove this today.

Thank you for your stories, I’m sorry that you have also had tough Christmases. It gives me great faith that there is a forward from this. I know I need to detach from her but she doesn’t want to let go of me despite the way she treats me. I have to be strong in 2012 and move forward. This has held me back for too long.


GREAT ARTICLE…..I can SO relate…Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday’s to all of you in whatever way you may find Peace in your heart….My first Christmas without guilt! It’s feeling better every minute.


Hi Darlene,

It’s been a while since I’ve commented here, life gets busy as we all know, but have still been following your posts via FB. This one today is especially poignant for me.

I dread the Christmas holidays in a way, well the “earthly” part of them if that makes sense. I rejoice in the heavenly aspect of what the holiday means to me, but having to go through the motions with abusers of the past still haunts my holidays from year to year. My wife and I were talking about it the other day (Friday) since I had reached into the cabinet to get a Xanax early in the morning – she knows that I only take them when I am “on the window ledge” as a means of calming down. She asked why I was needing one, especially at this hour of the morning. I told her it’s just the stress of the whole next few days, I had woken up thinking about it, body twitching from it, etc. We talked more and the while my narcissistic mother is more of just an irritant, the main source of my stress centers on my father who was brutally physically abusive when we were children. I just can’t get past that, I can’t make the disconnect to remove those memories from what he was then and what he is now, an old, weak man. That stresses me out even more than sitting across the Christmas dinner table today at their house, while my older brother that raped me as a child sits across the table from me. It’s going to be a helluva day. But I’ll get through it. We simply go to my parents house for an hour, then on to my in-laws house from there where we spend the rest of the day, surrounded by those who love us, truly love us.

Sorry for the downer, but it feels good to unload those thoughts this morning. Thanks for providing the space to do that, Darlene, I know I still have a lot of work to do in this area, and your post shows me that there is a better side of things that we can hope for. Merry Christmas and best wishes to you.


ran across this and it really spoke to me this morning, from a website about being a parent in recovery:

“Keep a “child-centered” rather than a “self-centered” focus in speaking to your children.”

It spoke to me but I’m not sure what it is saying. I wish all parents did this. I’m not sure how they DON’T do this…

i woke up to a couple of msgs from my mom about how much she loves being with her brother’s family for christmas this year. it was in response to a comment i shared about wanting the holidays to be over…i tend to be understanding with addicts who are in recovery but it is so hard with her.

hell, the holidays are hard all the way around. i cannot make myself let go of the dream of a “normal” christmas holiday..with family and warmth and togetherness and all that. the problem is if i manage to cobble one of those days together at all it is exhausting and tense and only if the planets are aligned *JUST* so and everyone took their meds on time. even then only three of us getting together at one time have managed it once in this last 5 years. and then it exploded, that sense of family i had found from the ashes of the larger family structure.

the last thing i need to hear on christmas morning is how awesome my mom’s time was with someone else.

not that i’m even sure i would go if invited, i don’t know that there is a way to make me happy about she can’t win for losing sometimes it seems with me..i’d say it was unfair if her behavior was truly “amended”…

but you can’t say “i made amends and if it isn’t enough that is your own fault” and demand forgiveness…

i just want to stop being so bitter.

luckily, i have a friend to hang out with today. a movie and chinese food ftw!


Darlene, it takes a long time to realize/understand/accept that our parents are flawed people – just like everyone else. We do not know the things in their lives that have made them then way they are. I believe children and siblings are the most unforgiving of those flaws because they are on the receiving end of the resulting actions. If your mother (my mother) were instead a perfect stranger or an acquaintance we would be able to distance ourselves more emotionally and thereby more compassionately allow for their own disappointments and mistreatment as being the cause of their dysfunctional life. But who is that perfect? I’m terribly sorry for what you have been through and glad to hear you have been able to move on. 🙂


It’s nice to know that we’re not alone.

I’m sat in my room right now on my own. My father came round for a while just to see me once a year, but left as to not stay so long. There’s no Christmas dinner tonight because my mother doesn’t feel like it. I’m not if she’s depressed or just doesn’t feel up to making it. All that I know is she lets other people’s actions get to her, so when they don’t do what she wants or they do something that doesn’t include her, she will let it get to her. That’s when it affects her offspring. My father left when I was a child because my mother placed her friends before him and the family. To this day, this is still going on. I had often prayed she would focus on the family for her own sake also. I know that it’s not my fault but I can only hope and pray for my own family one day. Prayer is a very powerful thing, just hang in there everybody and God will bless you because you deserve it. To get me through, I’m just going to remember what the church said to me. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, nothing else. Merry Christmas everybody!


Hi Jen
I love the way we do Christmas now too. I don’t miss any of the past Christmases at all! glad you are here
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Wendy,
Welcome to EFB ~ Thanks for sharing that story. Wow.
Hugs Darlene

Hi Tracy
WOW, that is a new one on me! That makes quite a statement ~ doesn’t it? I am so sorry that you went through all that.
Hugs, Darlene

Merry Christmas Susan
Thank you!!


Hi Eddie
Great to hear from you,
I am so sorry that those things happened to you as a child. Why does it matter that your father is an old weak man now? Why do you have to sit through that with those people who were so brutal to you. You don’t have to answer those questions Eddie.. it’s just that a big ah ha moment for me was when I suddenly realized that I don’t “HAVE” to do that anymore. I was validating my family before while they had always (and continued to) invalidate me. Now I validate me.
Merry Christmas to you also! I am so glad that you get to spend the bulk of your day with those who truly love you!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Emma
Welcome to EFB ~ thank you for your wonderful wishes,
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Sarah
I am so sorry that this happened to you this year. It is hurtful when we realize this.
glad you are here,
Hugs, Darlene


Welcome to all the new commenters!!

Hi Maggie
I am sorry that these were your Christmas morning messages! That must be very difficult. I have written a lot in this site about some of the things you mention in your comments.
Sounds like you have a better plan this year! Enjoy your day.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Lynn
I think that it is most important to heal from the damage that was caused and that is what I write about most. For most of my life I struggled with depressions etc. because I tried so hard to see my parents as having tried their best instead of validating the damage done to me. My mother never taught me love or forgiveness. I had to learn that on my own. forgiveness came as part of the work I did ~ it was a result. I am not concerned with perfection. I am living my best life now, and I don’t create the kind of damage that was in my own childhood. I wish that my parents could find the love and freedom that I have found.
thank you for being here, Hugs, Darlene

Hi Lydia
Thank you for your comments. I am glad you know it is not your fault.
Hugs, Darlene


Merry Christmas, Darlene, Everyone. Today was such a great day that I didn’t think about my childhood Christmases, at all.:0)It was a child centered day and we all had a great time watching my grandsons enjoy themselves and also, enoyed being with them and with each other. I’m happy to leave more unhappy past holidays in the past. The present is a great place to be!



I went to my family’s Christmas do last night, Christmas Eve, and it was hurtful in ways I’m not going to get into right now. Maybe next year I won’t go, I’m not sure. Today I spent a lot of the day alone….but it’s OK. A little lonely, a little sad sometimes, but not damaging. I’m glad to read others’ stories here, it makes me feel less alone. Peace everyone.


Sometimes it takes us awhile to realize that people need to own their own bad behavior and that we can put the responsibility on the person that does own it.
It may seem normal to feel guilty at times for the things we think we have done wrongfully. It is a glorious relief to realize that we were not at fault after all. Here’s to freedom from guilt and brokenness. Merry Christmas all and make your holidays the best you can make them for yourself and your family. For that you will never feel guilty.


Hi Everyone!

I found this site after googling “guilt from my mother at xmas”, lol. My Mum has always made me insane over the holidays, and until this year, I have always caved in and centred my holiday around her, to the detriment and frustration of my own family.

I have a serious anxiety and panic disorder which I have recognized and begun to get treatment for over the past 3 years. This year, I have come to accept few things that I would like to share:

1. I am not responsible for my mother’s happiness or unhappiness, and it is not my job to make sure she is happy.

2. I am 40 years old and I am allowed to have my own life and my own family. She is welcome to share in that as long as she is respectful of me and of the fact that my child and husband come first.

3. I am not the only one who feels this way about her, and it is not because I am a bad daughter. It is because she is manipulative and bitter, and the reason she is alone so much (despite having a huge family and circle of friends) is that she demands so much without giving in return. She says terrible things to people and then expects them to forgive and forget, even though she never does either herself.

4. My mother will never change, because she is incapable of letting go of the past. I, on the other hand, have changed enormously over the past year, and it is because I HAVE let go of the past and made peace with my own mistakes and with things that other people have said and done to me over the years. They simply cannot hurt me any more, and this is enormously freeing.

5. As someone who has a stress and anxiety disorder, I simply cannot push my feelings down inside me anymore and fall in with my mother’s (or anyone else’s) demands. I have to speak up and let her know how I feel, and I do this firmly and kindly. Her reaction is her own choice and responsibility.

6. It is ok to love my mother from a distance for as long as I need the space. I love her, I wish her well, and hope she is happy and healthy. But I cannot make her so…. that is up to her.

These things have become almost like “revealed wisdom” to me, although they may seem like simple common sense. I have had the most lovely, peaceful, stress-free Christmas this year… and my mum spent hers quite happily (reasonably so anyway) with my brother and his family, and managed to survive quite well without my constant attention and devotion to her. Imagine that!!

I hope that everyone finds some moments of simple joy and peace this holiday. I spent a lovely few minutes yesterday noticing how beautiful the sunshine was on the snow…. and it is moments like this that make up our lives. <3 -S


Darlene – you know i care about you and love your feedback. I have to be honest and say that it sounds like you still have a lot of bitterness and resentment towards your mother. Even though you have “moved on” have you really been able to let go of all those feelings, hurts and disappointments and forgive your mother for how she treated you ? All of what you say is true that it was not your fault and that your mother is the one who was really screwed up. the first part is acknowledging what happened and how you felt. the second part is forgiving her tresspasses against you. It sounds like you still have a lot of hurt and pain. I am sorry that you were treated so badly – i can certainly relate. I hope that you are working on the forgiveness piece. Its crucial to recovery.

god bless,



Hi Spigette
Welcome to emerging from broken!
I can relate to your comments! YAY and thank you for sharing your victories!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Pam!
I had a wonderful Christmas day with my family too. There were no fights, no tension, my sweet potatoes were not cooked in time for dinner and we let it go… this morning I found another part of the meal that I had forgotten to serve! LOL I used to get SO mad at myself if the meal was not perfect or if I forgot something. This Christmas was about love.
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Ellen
I am sorry that Christmas eve was hurtful for you. I agree that lonely and sad is better than damaging! It took me a very long time to realize that! I felt a little bit strange about posting what is viewed by many as a negative blog post for Christmas Eve and day, but I also know that so many really need to know they are not alone in all this.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Elizabeth D.
I echo your sentiments! Here is to freedom from guilt and brokenness!
Merry Christmas to you also. I had a wonderful guilt free Christmas with my family. We did everything we wanted to do!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Dave
I don’t have to work on the forgiveness part ~ I don’t have any energy on the whole thing with my mother/parents/abusers anymore. The resentments fell away when I did the work to heal from the damage. I write about the past out of my passion to help others. Having said that, I disagree that forgiveness is a crucial piece in recovery. I was stuck there for years. Trying to forgive before I understood the damage was like having the cart before the horse. This was a very important part for me to understand in my healing.
Hugs, Darlene


i also agree that forgiveness isn’t crucial to healing. it is the result of the process of healing, not the goal/process itself. in my opinion anyway.


Hi Darlene (and everyone else)

Don’t really feel like thinking about (or writing about) this right now, but just had my father unexpectedly decide to lecture me, having just woken up and apparently deciding when I’ve been awake all night is the perfect time to do this. Also just to make it even more fun, he was wearing his robe & sat down with his legs apart so I got a front-row view of his junk. (In related news, eye-gouging may soon be added to my list of self-harm episodes).

(Apologies. My bleak “humor” defense springing into action)

Somewhat depressingly, it’s the lecture that was actually the more disturbing part of it. It’s usually my mother who takes it upon herself to remind me that still being awake after sunrise is my own fault & how I’m not helping myself, blah blah *#&#&$ blah.

The lecture topic wasn’t even that bad, but for some reason it completely f**ked my head. (From zero to fighting suicidal thoughts in under a minute). Wandered around in a daze for several minutes afterwards, then decided it was an appropriate time to resort to alcohol for dissociative purposes, which at least distracted me for a minute. Then decided I’d come here.

Don’t even know what I want or why I’m writing. It’s not often my father that makes me uncomfortable by talking at me. I guess that’s why it stands out so much more when he does.

Actually in writing that, I just flashed back to when he told me I couldn’t share a bed with my then-partner in their house. (There’s a certain tone of voice, or way of speaking or something for such occasions).


Struggling. Sorry. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

I can’t even tell what I’m feeling, but I’ve got tears in my eyes now.

I hope everyone’s doing ok & had a good xmas.

f**k I’m sick of feeling like this

(Now I’m worried that sounds like a threat. I’ll be ok. Always have been so far. Also worried I shouoldn’t admit to using alcohol. But what the f**k. I’ve used porn, self-harm, anti-depressants, masturbation, f**ked-up relationships, christianity, work, music, tv, food, video games and probably other things I can’t remember to try and get through. So why should occasionally drinking purely in the hope of not thinking be any different?)

Darlene I’m scared to post this msg. If you don’t want to post it, could you just post to say I’m having a hard time & would really appreciate any encouragement? Thanks. I’m sorry


Hi J.
I am so sorry that you are having such a tough time right now. My mother picked those kinds of times to lecture me also… I think it gave her a feeling of power to inturrupt me. It was a way to remind me that I was not as important as she was. I am glad that you came here; it shows that you changing your default setting, taking that first step out of the old system. I am sending you hugs and warm thoughts J. There is hope but it takes time to see through the fog. It takes time to clear the fog away. You are on the road.
Hugs, please hang in there J.


My wife and I were talking the other day about what issues that I still have with my father, since we are still at very polar opposites from each other in terms of a relationship. As I said earlier, he was physically abusive when we were growing up, but also emotionally empty, distant, and simply had no use for us other than to yell at us to do something. As I told a therapist once, I felt more like his possession than his son. I was HIS, I belonged to HIM, and he never let a day go by that this fact was not ingrained into my psyche. At about 17, when I made the mistake of walking out of the house with my girlfriend in a manner that he deemed “insolent”, when I returned he said (and I remember it verbatim like it were yesterday) “Boy, if you ever do that again I will stomp your ass through the floor, do you understand me?!” Of course it was ‘boy’ because he certainly didn’t consider me a man by any measure and need to reinforce that fact for me.

But back to my conversation with my wife the other day, we were driving somewhere as she asked this and I thought for a moment and then told her that I think what still angers me the most about my father is how he squandered our relationship away, wasted it. What should have been a natural, positive thing between a father and son, he just didn’t give a damn about that. He frittered it away through the years, like someone wasting gas by driving too fast, or leaving a door open on a summer day when the AC is on. Careless, wasteful, and non-regretful. That’s what still bothers me the most. I guess I feel like I should have mattered to him, yet he proved every day that I didn’t. Does that resonate with anyone?


thanks so much Darlene, I really appreciate it!

I’ve been asleep most of the day since writing, probably just what I needed. Couldn’t exactly say I feel “good”, but can definitely say I feel better than I did.

thanks again & hope you’re doing well


Hi Darlene,

Just wanted to thank you for your blog about christmas day. Incredibly there was no other website on the internet about christmas day that mentioned the issues you raised. Just looking at the response showed how much your story reasonated with people. I think Christmas day is just another day, and to me there is too much hype brainwashed into people playing happy families, when in fact, people go through mental hell just to keep the brainwashing alive and well!! I think that letting go of the anger is forgiveness, but forgive but never forget as I think its really important to recognise abusive behaviour so as not to repeat it with potential friends or lovers/partners. I look forward to your next blogs and thank you once again for writing about christmas day and what it feels like to have such dysfunction around you when the television shows images of santa and happy families laughing and loving each other.


Hi Eddie
I think that is the most popular topic on this site. Most of the traffic that finds me via search engine are people looking for answers about why they didn’t matter to their parents or to a parent. That was the hardest truth that I had to face in my journey. That I didn’t really matter to my own parents. (I write more about my mother, but the same was true for my father. He was just so emotionally absent that there is not that much to write about) YOU SHOULD have mattered to him. I should have mattered to mine to, and I would bet that they would argue my statement that I didn’t matter, but we are talking about the truth in the actions here. The proof was always in the way I was treated.
Thanks for sharing ~ Darlene

Hi Emma
I am glad you found my site too! Brainwashing is the term that I have come to use also. I was so convinced that the dysfunction I was living in was normal. (perhaps because it was so common) I am glad that I no longer live in or accept that kind of dysfunction in my life. This year there is lots of laughter and love in my home. My kids don’t have grandparents, but they have so much more that that.
I look forward to your shares. Welcome to this community!
Hugs, Darlene

Glad to hear that you are feeling a bit better!
Things are excellent at my end!


Hi Everyone
I just published Part two of this post ~ This new one is about gift giving. I never seemed to be able to pick the right gift for my mother. It was never good enough, never what she wanted; always a disapointment. This new post reflects my breakthough about the way she views gifts and what they represent, both giving and getting them.

You can read it here: Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Giving the wrong Gift
Hugs, Darlene


Hello Everyone!!
I commend you for sitting through a lecture without going “postal”. Wow, you must have the patience of a saint!! My mom used to do this too. It was always about how I needed to get my s**t together, how I was seeking pity, on a one way path to loser ville, etc. I think of that and it makes me want to smack her mouth like she used to mine. (still got a few things to work through :))
Hope you’re doing better today.

I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks as well, although I don’t have full blown attacks and haven’t for several years. I still struggle with generalized anxiety at times ~ it seems to be a little shadow trailing behind me constantly seeking a crack in the foundation with which it can sneak into. Seems to morph itself too, into things that will blindside me; effects I haven’t felt before, etc. I hope to be completely free of it once I get my head completely straight about my mother mostly, but father as well, and a sibling now. I loved reading your bullet points. Thanks for sharing them. They reinforced some things I’d forgotten.


Hi Mimi,

thanks for your thoughts! “Postal” gave me a chuckle, as did your smily face joke (sounds like something I’d write, hehe!)

I think it’s actually the “don’t make waves” training that kicks in, rather than genuine patience. (I appreciate the compliment anyway, btw!) Just remembered back on my 18th birthday (when I was heavily involved w/church still) a slightly older guy I admired wrote how he’d never seen me angry yet (as a good thing). I think the good ol’ christian doctrine of anger = hellfire probably had a fair bit to do with it too. I sometimes wish I’d just been someone who fired up and told people where to go when they f**ked with me. Would’ve been a WHOLE lot healthier than just internalizing it all!!! Oh well. Something to work on, right? (Join the line – it’s a long’un!)

I can also relate to the “b**chslap” urge, shall we call it?? 🙂

And thanks, still in a nocturnal haze, but better than I was! Hope you’re doing well too


Something is heavily on my mind and I thought because Christmas is coming and I’ll likely be alone thought I’d post here.

It’s about my relationship with my sister and how deeply dissatisfied I am with it. My sister has avoided me for as long as I can remember. She would deny this though, she denies everything. Always an excuse or a deflection or some BS to explain away any difficulty I have had with her. She won’t get into childhood stuff, she says she’s too old for that now. She used to say that anger was neurotic.

She has untreated anxiety, and you can never bring anything to her, she’s always “too stressed out” for that. She won’t hug me, and flinches when I’ve moved toward her to touch or hug her. I no longer try to do that since she’s so uncomfortable. On the rare times I’ve gotten her on the phone, her voice shakes with anxiety, but she’s calmer speaking to her husband.

I’ve written this before, but for the past two Christmases I went to their place. Mom is in a retirement home two hours from me, so they say it’s too much for her to come out all this way for a Christmas at my place. I’ve never hosted a Christmas, I’ve always had to travel. Those two Christmases, my sister spent no one-on-one time with me at all. I never got 5 minutes out of the day with her alone. She’d either be busy checking the food or going for a smoke with her husband in the spare room they designated for smoking. I was left watching tv or on the computer by myself for most of the day, although for a good part of it her husband would watch tv with me. After they picked up Mom from the home, they both settled into the living room and entertained her with videos she may like. The smoke breaks were much less after Mom was there.

My sister has POA. Last year at dinner she boasted to Mom, “I know all the pills you take Mom, even your vitamins”. I was sitting across from her and had asked for that information to be sent to me, what meds mom is on, 6 months before and never got it.

The first Christmas, I wrote my sister an email telling her in a nice way how being left alone so much bothered me and how lonely I felt. It wasn’t addressed, and the next year, it happened again. Both Christmases it had been nearly a year since she’d seen me. My sister talks about sister bonding in emails but it doesn’t go further.

Aside from Christmas, throughout the year if I happen to get a call from them, it is always her husband calling. Sometimes he’s been home alone; usually he calls and my sister is there but she doesn’t get on the phone. It’s just me and him on the phone. I have told her several times I don’t understand this and she said once, “Don’t you want to talk to him?” as if I’m trying to be hurtful to him or something.

Last month at Thanksgiving he called and left a message asking me to call him back, how I was doing. I didn’t call back for a couple of weeks and when I did I told him, “I am having a problem with my sister because she doesn’t get on the phone”. He said, “Well hon you have to pick up your messages”, which made no sense cause WHY they’re gonna be from him.

So I hang up but call back in a few minutes and finally I get my sister right away. We talk and joke a bit about a visit from them to me and I hear him say something and my sister laughs and says, “Oh yeah, he says he wants to see Sexy”. I laugh but tell her “he should only be saying that to you” but she just laughs like it’s nothing. I’ve mentioned that before too cause he told mom he thought I was gorgeous, which I think if he thinks that he should keep it to himself and ESPECIALLY not say anything like that in front of my sister. Who already thinks she’s not good-looking thanks to Mom, who she now dotes over, calling her ugly as a kid.

One time, when I was visiting my sister and husband, we were all bitchin about mom over something and her husband says, “I know, let’s really bug her by taking a picture of the three of us in bed” and they laughed and I was CREEPED the hell out.

Anyway, it makes my head hurt to think he wants me, so I don’t really go there, but why else would he make those comments? Because of my self-image at present which I’m working on, I never really think any man finds me too attractive, so I kinda just push it away as joking. But really, I find it extremely inappropriate and disrespectful to my sister.

Last month I told my sister through email I wouldn’t be over there for Christmas this year. I had written her before expressing ambivalence over being left alone and she never responded, so I decided, I am not going through that a third time. Again she didn’t respond.

A few days ago I decided to give one more shot at having time with her. I wrote about an overnite visit from her. I didn’t mention her husband. She wrote back all excited saying they’d been talking about visiting, and suggested a date. She doesn’t drive, so at first I was excited and thought she meant he would drop her off and come back in a couple of days. Then I started to deflate as I suspected she meant, an overnite visit from them both. I did that last year, they take my bed, I get the couch. She says they have a tv and printer for me, things too heavy for her to take herself of course, and being overnite there’ll be “plenty of time for visiting, maybe even some sister bond time” she writes.

She makes it sound good but I see that “maybe” and think of a carrot being dangled. The whole point was to spend time with her.
After I think what to do, I confirm a date and she writes back about how “I think we may be able to sneak off without (him) for a bit”.

So, that’s where I am. I think she is majorly avoiding me and refuses to deal with it. When I come to her or him with my concerns I either get no response (if it’s through email) or they act like what’s going on is perfectly normal. I don’t think it’s normal. I think it’s a bunch of bullshit and far from normal. He’s generally a nice, quiet guy who’s hard working, but a functioning alcoholic who drinks everyday and doesn’t communicate with his children. My sister is so messed up from the past that she refuses to make friends and says she hates people. She is only interested in spending time with him. I don’t think either of them know what normal is.

She has pushed me away for 40 years. Sometimes I think she knows something that I can’t remember. I really love her, more than anyone in the world, but I can’t get to her in any way. It makes me so mad cause she writes and writes about sister bonding but it stops there. For a long time I’ve wanted to believe her excuses but it’s much harder now that I’m working on healing. There is a new me coming out and I don’t want to take scraps from anyone anymore. I don’t want to let her go, but if I think about it, she’s pretty much let me go in every meaningful sense.

Sorry this is so long


Hi Doren
Christmas and holidays are very hard for many of us and they seem particularly harder when the fog starts to life and the truth emerges. For me it was the awareness of just how little I mattered that stung so deeply combined with all the hype about family at christmas etc. The hype and commercialism teach that there is so much warm fuzzy love around those seasons and for me all it was stressful. (not that I knew that before) standing up to family and then having christmas alone was such a painful reminder that I wasn’t really loved or valued. It was another way of being reminded that I didn’t really matter. Holidays were occasions where ‘they’ could define me all the more. Now I am free from all that false defining! The good news is that it was only really hard for the first couple of Christmases! And now Christmas and other holidays get better every year!
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Darlene,
Christmas reminds me of how I’ve been rejected by my family. For the past 5 years, I stopped going to my parent’s house for XMas Eve dinner…It was a family tradition for years…I chose to stay home XMas Eve with my husband instead, after the truth came out 5 years ago, that my family don’t like or accept my husband. They were pretending to get along with him. I felt betrayed & abandoned by them. I still struggled with guilt about breaking tradition, yet I knew I needed to take a stand & not worry about false loyalty to family. They didn’t show me any loyalty or concern. Then, my brother for no apparent reason shunned my kids & I, by having no contact last Christmas. That was hurtful & yet another rejection from FOO. I was feeling deep rejection & abandonment again. I was angry, so I messaged him & told him I did not understand why he ignored my kids & I and that was lousy. He already made up his mind to shun us, but now that I was calling him out on it, he was pissed at me. I’m not responsible & I told him that he made the choice to not see us. First time I called him out on his behavior. I spoke up for my self respect and to say that we(my kids & I) matter. Well, it’s that time again and I have to say I’m not hurting like I was last year. My brother & I have had no contact since last Christmas. I feel free of any obligation to visit my parent’s this Christmas, where I would see my brother & my nephews. He ended that last year.

This Christmas, I’m only having my parents over to my house before Christmas. I never did that before. I’m thinking this will be more comfortable & definitely less stressful for me. Maybe I’m fooling myself, yet I can’t seem to cut them off totally just continuing to set boundaries. They do behave when it’s not their house, so I know they can control their behavior, while they are here. They are lucky to see their grandkids for the Holiday! I stopped visiting them since July. I can’t bring myself to go to their house anymore, due to drama & stress. Anyway, I feel free to be myself & enjoy the Holidays at my house! I’m feeling more control over my emotions, when I set the stage and my boundaries. Well, that’s it for now, may have more to talk about as the Holiday draws closer. I will make good memories with my children- Holiday Party with my in laws, baking cookies, making crafts & we decorated the tree!


Hi!…I’m back again. Uncovered another layer of pain today. The prompting event was a so-called Christmas card from my brother. It was not Christmasy at all. It was a photo of his family (wife & 3 boys)on vacation in Portugal. No Christmas cheer or personal written message like Merry Christmas. I wasn’t even expecting any card from him, then it came. Well, I can’t help to think that this is for show to reflect how good he is to send me a card. He didn’t send a card last Christmas…My gut says, this is yet another tactic to be the so-called better/one up person….I’m tired of reading between the lines…I’m not inclined to see this for any heartfelt greeting at all…I don’t have any plans to see him this year & I didn’t send a card.

I was really hurt by his poor treatment of my kids & I last year. I’m ready to let go & just want them to leave me alone. Their actions have shown me they don’t care. Another memory came up, from when I was 14, and I was really depressed & anxious. My mom was convincing me to go to school. I told her I wanted to go to a psych hospital, I was already in counseling & I was not feeling any better…In hindsight, how grown up I was to do this for myself. Well, they left me in the hospital for 7 months with few visits. When I did have home visits, I felt alone…no talking about how I’m doing or feeling. Just pretend all is well. I wasn’t able to express my feelings then & that was allowed. I really thought they were protecting me but in many ways I was protecting them…Wow!..I never looked at it that way, Tears :(….I was left alone & not protected, yet I had to be the loyal one!…Years later in my 30’s, my dad reveals to me how “I left the family” at 14 yrs old….What?!! Yes, I did cohose my health & myself. Couldn’t they see that?…They have put me in triangulations like this my whole life where I have had to chose…Another example, was how they picked sides & I had to chose between my husband & them. I chose my husband. I really have chosen myself by deciding to indiviuate from my fOO. That was a blessing in disguise, when I started that process at 14. That is what teens do. I’m not an extension of them…I’m my own person. I embrace that in my 40’s…Yay! I am worthy and I don’t need them….I’m trying to come to peace with the pain. (((Tears)))


I meant to say, expressing my feelings was not allowed….I was sad & withdrawn…


Any insights or tips on dealing with rejection sensitivity this time of year? 🙂


WOW! Darlene You always seem to hit the nail on the head for me. Struggling thru the guilt she is placing on my this year about me not hosting the holidays… I am simply just not up to it. I have enough recovery under my belt to know NOT to give into the guilt and to take care of me. I think the very real culprit of my anger is that I actually need to grieve this “fantasy” relationship I have conjured up over the years to gain her love and approval. I am realizing… This just is never going to happen. I need to let it go, and move on with my growing fulfilling life ahead of me. I keep growing up and it feels wonderfully good to take good care of me… Finally! Thank you so much for this post. Just what I needed today! Hugs!


On previous Christmases, my sister would take care of my mother on Christmas day while I took Christmas Eve. This year my sister is (maybe) visiting my mom for awhile early Christmas Eve, while I do both Christmas Eve proper AND Christmas day with her. It’s not going to be a happy Christmas. Maybe the girls and I can celebrate another day. I had my mother talked into going with us to a buffet restaurant and picking up the tab as a present for the girls, but now she says she doesn’t want to do that sort of thing anymore because of her disabilities. Funny, she’s able to go shopping at Walmart for hours, going along in the little cart with her home health aide, but mmm, buying us all lunch? Not doing so would save her a lot of money. Then I told her her grandson (her favorite) might be coming, and it’s all “Well, call me and see how I feel.” I wouldn’t visit her at all, it’s a totally joyless occasion, but she’s a narcissist, and she has no friends. Somebody’s got to be with her. I have a plan, though, if she starts talking trash to my girls, and that is to tell her that she’s obviously not in a mood to be visiting, take the girls home and then come back and finish the obligatory time. We’re fortunately in a position that we can celebrate another day.

Christmas as a child used to be a get-together with family and their friends, but my mother in full control mode would have something bad happen to her, maybe something spilled in the kitchen, maybe something got dropped on the floor, and she would be off in full pity-party mode with tears and recriminations against her hard, hard life, which none of us could do anything about. Then someone would foolishly try to comfort her, and she would turn on that person with words that indicated that s/he was really stupid to not understand how bad she had it. The chastened person would withdraw in shock, and the adults among us would stand around shuffling their feet, wondering how long it would be before we could decently leave.


I have spent many christmases alone after i moved out from my parents at 21. for several years i went home to be with them in florida. I spent my own $$ and my vacation days and all they did was watch tv and read the paper. They didnt give a damn about me and the fact that i wanted to go to church to celebrate Xmas. they could care less. I finally realized that i was wasting my time and my $$. My parents never went to church so i didnt expect them to go with me when i would go on a sunday for normal service but i would invite them to go on Xmas eve and they could care less. It was very hurtful. We didnt do anything to celebrate Xmas…so i just stopped going. I spent most the of the next holidays alone until i got married 11 years ago.

I look back on what i wrote a year ago on this blog and cant believe i wrote it…i saw the name “Dave” and thought it must have been someone else..I was so confused about the role of forgiveness in healing. My christian counselor and my pastors assured me that if i just forgave my parents for their abuse, then i would be healed. That was the basis i used for healing for years. So i forgave and forgave some more and yet i was still hurting, felt alone, isolated and was clearly not getting better. I still struggle with the role of forgiveness. I feel “mandated” to forgive because Jesus commands it so strongly that we must “forgive our trespassors.”…i didnt realize that i needed to process all the hurt and pain associated with the abuse as well. I didnt realize how much i was holding onto and how much i needed to let go of. Its really hard every day. The pain just keeps coming and coming and coming yet i persevere…hoping the end of the pain will come soon.

Merry Christmas,



Hey Everyone,
I published a new Chistmas post ~ you can read it here:
Hugs and happy holidays to everyone!


Thank you for your hones and truthful writing.I am a christian and yet I have found that so many who call themselves “followers” of Christ do Not understand nor do they want to understand? Often they just want to “preach” forgive and everything will miraculously be A-okay! I actually have forgiven because I was gently “pushed” into to it. i call it releasing myself from the burden of anger and getting justice when I cannot…even if I get a lawyer.The unfairness is/was there and yet now I am more accepting of it.However, I agree 100% with you about the patterns of abusive relationships. My Mother as believed that she was”entitled” to emotionally and verbally abuse me. She had labelled me as her “schizy” daughter!!! If only she were more honest with herself!Of course that hurt me because what I had actually suffered was PTSD from being driven down a dark road and sexually assaulted when I was 17.My mother was also violent towards me and yet I could survive that ,it was the sexual assault and the dreaded fear that I might actually be killed with no where to was a wooded road with no houses and no lights. Now that I have brought it to the light of Truth I have been silenced once again and some police try to “discredit” me as if I am actually making it up!!! But I do feel free of that night finally. The fact that my family still wants to control me and won’t “allow” me to have my if I ever interfered with their lives! I have been the one to be blamed.However, my Mother does say that she failed miserably sometimes.Just a few years ago when Dad had died she waited until there would be no witnesses to start an argument with me. Then she told everyone,Aunts,cousins that it was me,that I was “losing my mind”!(which I was not)This year I didn’t see any of them but it was probably because they still want to Place ALL blame on me for the victimization that I have suffered for most of my life.She wants others to believe that there is something wrong with me as if that would justify her abuse of me which has been lifelong until recently I decided that I just would NOT argue with her even if she was dead wrong.I would come home and cry instead.i appreciate your honesty,Darlene.Where I live there is no where to be honest and still be regarded as Sane! This is a very “old school” city.if there is any honesty about your own healing process someone decides that thepolice ought to be watching! After the sexual assault I went into denial because I was a minister’s daughter and I couldn’t imagine who I could talk to. So 35 years went by before I could talk. Finally I reported a historical case and again some officers doubted my Sincerity!!!Fortunately I found Dr.peter Levine on line but I cannot get treatment from someone who is so far away…don’t have credit cards.
May your work be blessed as you pursue Truth.thank you,Darlene.


Hi Miranda
Thank you for sharing; It was very important for me to validate myself no matter what anyone esle said about me or how much they tried to discredit me. That is all about them making sure the dirty secrets are kept. They know the truth, and so do we.
Thanks for sharing, hang in there!
Hugs, Darlene


[…] difficult for survivors of dysfunctional family dynamics and abusive relationships. When the world appears to be celebrating the joys of warm family love and the longing to be together, it’s hard not to feel the pain of not being loved […]


My husband always made the comment “the road goes in both directions” when referring to us always having to pack up the kids and head to grandmas house. In the 27 years I have been gone my mother visited me twice but complained that I was keeping her grandchildren away from her and generally guilted me into visiting her. This is my first holiday season of no contact and I am torn between all of the messages I was taught to accept as truth and the emerging actual truth being revealed by my counseling team, husband, kids, and genuine friends. Such a painful battle. Such freedom!

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