Christmas Feelings when Family Rejects You and the Truth about Love


carla mexico marketThis time of year is particularly 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 unconditionally especially if that includes the members of your own family of origin.

A commenter on the emerging from broken blog said something this week that struck me as one of the hardest things about having lived in a dysfunctional family where relationship and love were taught and modeled the wrong way. When love and acceptance is communicated in a false way, the resulting damage can inhibit our self-esteem from growing in a healthy and positive way and cause us to feel responsible for the failure in the relationship. Her comment was about her new realizations since the passing of her mother. I could deeply relate to her realization that she wanted to be missed. It was particularly devastating to me when I realized that I wasn’t missed. The truth was that if I wasn’t going to comply and function in the relationships in the way that I was taught and groomed to, then I was dis-missed. A huge part of the healing process for me was in the process of understanding how this ‘dismissal’ was not my fault but rather it was related to my strength and a sign of healing and taking my life back from those who believed that they owned me.

Here is the comment from this precious reader:

 “I was estranged from my mother for 15 years or so and she died last month. It is sad knowing she is gone, but it has allowed the passing of a deep rooted sense of hope of reconciliation from her that was never going to happen, and the realization that I wanted to be missed. It is hard to shake the shame of rejection by those from whom we expect unconditional love and that parental bond that can find superhuman strength when needed! If our family won’t love us, how do we convince others that we are worthy without the need to justify ourselves at deeper levels than words?”

I remember feeling this same way and having those same questions. That if my own family didn’t ‘love me’ how could anyone love me? I wondered who would or could love me. I remembered that I thought it was up to me to convince others, including my own family that I was worth loving. But the truth is that I didn’t believe it myself. After living so long in the dysfunctional family system where love was proved by compliance and obedience and love was proved by acceptance of whatever treatment was dished out, I didn’t know that I was worth it. I didn’t realize that I needed to embrace the truth that the ways their actions defined me, were false. They were wrong! What they taught me about me was all lies. I didn’t need to convince anyone that I was worth loving; I needed to convince myself.

The process of ‘emerging from broken’ was and continues to be a process where through looking at how my self-esteem had become so low in the first place, I was able to see the lies I believed about me and when I saw clearly that they were actually not true, I was able to overturn them. I had to expose these lies to myself in order to realize that my understanding of love was wrong because love had not been shown to me. Love isn’t something that I need to convince someone to do but because that is the ‘love’ I had learned growing up, that kind of ‘love’ was all I knew about.  

I carried a deep shame that my family didn’t want to be with me during holidays or at other significant times in my life. I have not spent a Christmas with my mother since I was 15. I have not spent Christmas with my father since I was 18. I believed it was my fault and was because of choices that I made which caused my parents not to want to see me.

I never considered that neither of my parents ever tried to see me for Christmas either. I was raised to believe that the relationship I had with everyone was up to me. I completely believed that the success or failure of my relationships was always up to me. I never understood that it takes two, that there are two sides to every relationship even though I used that expression (it takes two) as frequently as anyone else used it. I didn’t live it. I lived accepting that everything was up to me. I lived accepting that all failure, all rejection, all dysfunction was my fault. And so I lived trying harder and became more and more distressed and unhappy, because I (falsely) believed that I failed again and again.  I (falsely) believed that I could find the magic key that would make me become lovable and I kept trying.

But the key was within me all along. They key was seeing things through the grid of truth instead of through the grid of lies that I accepted about me. The truth was that I was addicted to proving myself and my worth instead of believing I had it in the first place.

Why did I believe that the shame was mine? It is so obvious to me now. It is so clear to me how I came to believe that I deserved to be rejected. And if I believed I deserved rejection, of course I also believed that the shame of it was mine. So the real key was in searching for and finding the truth about me. Was I a failure? If so, what made me a failure? I looked at the roots and the messages that I had been given. I looked at the details and sorted through the wreckage and finally realized that I did NOT bring this on myself. It was never me. I was too young when it all started for it to have been something that I did or deserved. When I looked at the details I realized that the acceptance and the rejection was inconsistent. I couldn’t win. It was never in the plan for me to know my value! It worked better for them if I didn’t know my value or worth.

Just as there are a lot of layers to the way false messages, abuse, neglect and the way our self-esteem is formed in the first place, there are a lot of layers to overcoming all those lies and false definitions too. If there was one simple answer, I wouldn’t have so many articles in this website! Looking at the details of those messages went miles towards my success in taking my life back from them and the unsticking the labels they applied to me.

It really helped me to understand that my family and the way that they regarded me, didn’t define me. The fact that they didn’t, wouldn’t or even if they just plain couldn’t love me was NOT about me, it was about them. I don’t have to convince anyone that I am worthy or lovable. I am. I just am. I was born lovable. I was born worthy. It wasn’t something I did that changed that truth. That truth never changed; what happened was that I was taught love wrong.  It was when I convinced myself (through embracing the truth) that I was lovable and worthy, that everything changed and that I began to heal from the damage those lies caused.

This year is harder for me because for the first time in my life as a mother, one of my children isn’t going to be home for the holidays. But I know the truth about this and the truth is always the key. My mother’s version of understanding is not part of the truth. I have discarded those old definitions of love and the way I was taught to prove my love in favor of the truth about what love really is. My daughter isn’t away from home this year because she doesn’t love me. It isn’t because I did something that caused her to reject me. It isn’t because I failed in the relationship. It isn’t a punishment. It doesn’t define me or our relationship. The truth is that my daughter is loved enough to know that she has choices for her own life and she has been empowered to make her own choices. She knows she is loved and she knows she is missed and she knows that no one is angry with her because she is away this year. And I know this truth too.

Learning what love really is has been one of the most important parts of the healing process for me and the easiest way to learn that is to clearly see what love isn’t. Love isn’t about convincing anyone of my value. Love isn’t about obligation or compliance. Love isn’t about doing what other people want if it isn’t best for them or you.

Each Christmas / Holiday season gets better for me. With each year that passes I am more settled and able to comprehend my value more deeply. With each year of living in wholeness and truth, my self-esteem becomes healthier; my relationships become richer and more loving, my smile becomes brighter and my life becomes more meaningful.  I don’t ‘prove my love’ by jumping through flaming hoops anymore. The false definition of love no longer rules my choices.

Wishing everyone a discovery of the real Truth,

There is freedom on the other side of broken;

Darlene Ouimet

My book “Emerging from Broken ~ The beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is now available on the upper right side bar here in the website.

P.S. For Coaching ~ NOTE~ I have a waiting list at this time. If you wish to join my wait list, please see the info page before contacting me. Thanks!

Related posts ~ Dysfunctional Family Christmas and giving the Wrong gift:

Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Being Alone

360 response to "Christmas Feelings when Family Rejects You and the Truth about Love"

  1. By: Robyn Posted: 9th December

    Thank you for your article. I feel like no human has ever loved me. Every year, I tried to buy bigger and better presents, and they were, for the most part, rejected. My histrionic mother is gone; my father is a zombie (advanced dementia). My brother is in a marriage of pure hell that he won’t leave. I’m expected to do all the holiday cooking, presents (niece just gave me a long list; she gets me nothing), etc. and get nothing in return. I’ve long since stopped being upset about getting nothing (I buy myself what I want) but it would be nice is somebody cared about me, made me a meal or bought me a present (not expensive) just because.. It’s natural that I believe this is because I am not loveable, too ugly, too much of a failure, etc. I don’t know how to turn that off. At 46-years-old, I’ve never been asked on date, never been on a real vacation, and never been told “I love you” sincerely. How can I not believe I don’t deserve it?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th December

      Hi Robyn,
      Something important that I learned is that it isn’t how other people regarded me that actually proved my value or my worth. That went miles towards my healing. You deserve because you are you. Period. We all have equal worth as human beings. “they” don’t get to define us.
      I hope you will keep reading here. There is so much hope in these pages.
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: nancy Posted: 22nd October

    Thank you for this post. It is so hard to get to the place you describe you have now achieved! It is so difficult to accept and understand that it was not our fault our family rejected us.

    I’m also glad you mentioned Christmas. While I still see what’s left of my dysfunctional family (mom, brother, sister-in-law and niece) it constantly brings up feelings of sadness, rejection and abandonment.

    Just this week my brother (who, for the most part, has gone “low contact” with my mom and I) decreed in an email that he’s decided that this year we change our gift giving. Ever since I can remember, gift giving at Christmas has been “my thing”. I take great joy in it and I am good at it. I look at gift giving as a way to express my love and affection for someone. I also believe gift giving is a way you can demonstrate you understand and know the person you care about. I always try to gift them with items that will make them happy or bring a smile to their face. I spend time thinking about what those gifts would be. So, I tend to be very generous with my gifts. But I don’t and never have expected that level of gift giving to be reciprocated. I simply love to experience the job of making others I care about happy.

    So in this email, my brother is essentially taking that joy away from me…which is hurtful in itself since he even acknowledges how important this practice is for me. He tried to justify his care for a change in gift giving (essentially he wants everyone to supply a list of 1-2 things and that’s it). He simply can’t be bothered to spend any time thinking of what my mom and I would like. He asserted I should, instead, donate to charities (which I do) and buy for two small children in his wife’s extended family (also which I do). Of course, he has no problem buying plenty of gifts for his own wife and daughter.

    I am devastated and hurt on many levels. First, that he disrespected me by not even discussing this with me, but instead issuing an email dictate. Second, that he doesn’t care that he is taking from me a real joy I have around the holiday. Third, that he can’t be bothered to spend any time thinking about a present for me or my mom. Fourth, that he instead focuses on his joy about spending Thanksgiving and Christmas Day with his wife’s large extended family.

    The problem is that now, regardless of whether I go along with this or not (and I immediately told him I don’t agree), my Christmas is destroyed. I know the truth now….that he simply values and cares about my mom and I so little that he can’t even be bothered to think about Christmas gifts for us. I know the truth now that he cares so little about me that he will disrespect me and willingly take away the thing that gives me joy at Christmas. I also know the truth that he cares nothing about the tradition of my family (his biological family) of which there are very few. Since childhood, my N mom and co-dependent dad always made a huge deal out of Christmas. It was their way of showing us they cared even though there was a lot of dysfunction involved and there was very little communication in the family.

    So now I’m faced with a dilemma. How can I have any relationship at all with him when I now know he cares so little about me? What is the point of attending his Christmas Day gathering (where attendees would be comprised of all of his wife’s extended family; I would be the only person from his family)? My mother is an N and all she cares about is my N sister who she spends Christmas Day with. Literally, the only holiday my family spends together in a year (mom, me, brother and his wife and daughter) is Christmas Eve. That’s it. Why would I even want to now invest in gift giving when he has made his position clear?

    I guess I’m having trouble accepting that I really have no family…and that no member of my family cares about me. It is difficult to let go of…especially since it leaves me entirely alone while they have others in their lives. Even worse, he’s making me out to be the unreasonable one. When I responded to his suggestion saying that this hurt me, he got angry and told me there is absolutely no reason to be hurt, that this just makes sense (for HIM, but not for me!!!!)

    Any advice?

  3. By: Carlos Posted: 25th February

    Ah Christmas, the time in which gift giving, bloating ourselves in numerous delicacies and celebrating the birthday of Jesus are just some of the things that most families preoccupy themselves with in this festive season.

    But in dear old Carlos’ family, Christmas comes with an added bonus in the form of his “loving” family dishing out gifts in the form of insults, of which he is expected to take as words of encouragement and understand as actions that they did for the sake of his greater good. Merry
    Christmas to me then! 😀 When I was 16, I received an Ipad (A Chinese replica) for Christmas in 2010. Because I was overweight back then, dear old “sexy” maternal grandmother decides to throw in a comment in front of the entire fambam going: “Haha Carlos your gift is as big as you! Hahaha”

    Thanks nan! 😀 6 yrs later you’re still angling your body when you take photos so that your “fans” on Facebook can see how “sexy” you’ve become (*Grabs barf bag and vomits at the thought of calling her sexy for the third time*)

    That situation was enough to give an indication as to what kind of person she is in my life and the kind of relationship we have. Heck I didn’t even embrace her on the first day of 2016 after the countdown on New Year’s Eve, after she said that my degree was worthless a few weeks back. New year, new life my foot!

  4. By: Andria Posted: 22nd January


    Sorry to hear that you had a difficult counseling meeting last night. It is hard to start feeling the things you don’t want to feel. It hurts. I understand how there is no way to win with your family. That’s how I felt with my family. I also felt that I could not “win” either. I was an outsider. I could not “win” a place in their group.


  5. By: Gin Posted: 22nd January

    The more I think about my earlier post, the more I think I couldn’t be at all. It isn’t that I couldn’t be who they wanted. There wasn’t a me that could be right for them. I only would have been right if I hadn’t existed. But they ‘needed’ me to exist. I have been the one that has kept with the wish of not existing. Sad today. Difficult counseling meeting last night. When you spend a long time not feeling and it starts to catch you, it’s pretty horrible. There was–there is–no way for me to win with them. And I have believed that meant there was no way I could ‘win’ either.

  6. By: Lynne Posted: 26th December


    You’re so right! You said: “Family” is all about the unified “we.” If you don’t agree with the “we” you are ostracized. Or in my case, “We put up with you, but we secretly laugh at you behind your back and we ‘tease’ you because we love you.” NO, It’s not teasing, it’s HURTFUL!”‘

    I didn’t agree with the “we” and I’ve been made to pay dearly for it too. The cruelty and the pain that it’s caused does not faze them in the least. If I didn’t pretend that our sperm donor was a fine upstanding man/dad then I was rejected, ignored, disregarded and made to be the “negative” and hateful sibling. They were judge, jury, and executioner and I wasn’t even given a fair hearing. So, no contact with the one brother and sister from now on. They’re are so totally blind to the fact that they are just continuing the generational sin of rejecting, abandoning, and abusive neglect that our so-called father began. He made it so normal to them, although they wouldn’t have like it if it happened to them, that it was simple for them to carry out the same sentence he dished out to me when he chose to replace me with the step-monster/sister. It’s sad how emotional abuse gets so normalized in dysfunctional families that it fogs up what normal conscience we may have been born with. For my sister, I think it gives her the feeling of “power” she has never felt in her life. She can have her god/daddy. If that’s the best she can do, I feel very sorry for her.

  7. By: DXS Posted: 19th December

    Julie, loved your comment. Yeppers, it’s your DUTY to be the person WE want you to be, not who YOU want to be…… As for the “you can count on family,” That is a load of crap.

    “Family” is all about the unified “we.” If you don’t agree with the “we” you are ostracized. Or in my case, “We put up with you, but we secretly laugh at you behind your back and we ‘tease’ you because we love you.” NO, It’s not teasing, it’s HURTFUL!

  8. By: DXS Posted: 19th December

    I was watching news and they gave tips for handling holiday blues. Travel (yes), start new traditions (yes), Reconnect with family (HELL NO!)

    That last suggestion is the last thing we want to do. If we “reconnect” we get sucked into the old family dynamics because no one wants to see you be “different” than what they remember. It upsets things.

    I find I’m happier spending Christmas alone or with close friends.

  9. By: Julie Posted: 18th December

    “I don’t ‘prove my love’ by jumping through flaming hoops any more.” This line resonated with me. All of my interactions felt like walking a tight rope or jumping through flaming hoops. They saw it as being a good, compliant daughter. I saw it as torture, but believed it was my duty to do so. Thank you for sharing your journey. It has helped me in going through mine.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th December

      Hi Julie
      Welcome to EFB ~ Glad you are here!
      hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Alaina Posted: 17th December

    Hi Light,
    I’m glad you’re doing good things for yourself! I’ve got to get on that myself! 🙂
    If sweeping something under the carpet works for everyone except one, then it doesn’t work. That’s a fact. Everyone matters.

    I guess to sum up where I ended up with family, it’s that if it’s their need to keep things under the carpet but my EQUAL need to have it up in the light, then the only (unfortunate) answer is to get out from under the carpet (because it was ME under the carpet of course), which means leaving them behind. Even though it’s a bad situation, I know it was the right choice for me. I wasn’t wrong or bad to make it; I was just pushed up between a rock and a hard place. Wanting to live in the truth is reasonable and good. Plus I don’t want to take part in destroying me anymore.

    Take care!

  11. By: mary Posted: 17th December

    As my husband said, they owe you (meaning siblings), they know what they did and unless they come here on their knees and are genuinely contrite…but as we both know that will never happen. He said what they did to you was wrong, they are evil. All he’s ever seen out of my family is arrogance and pride and perversion. They don’t know what love is. They should have been there for you when you were ill, he said,instead they almost buried you with their actions. Instead they try to put the guilt on you, you don’t owe them anything! He is so right, I shouldn’t give them any mind. I get into a funk leading up to Christmas but it seems a day or so before something kicks in and I make the cookies and cook up a good Christmas meal for the two of us. It might not be real exciting but at least it is drama free.for me that is. Since Mom died, the rest of the siblings splintered up as I knew they would, Mom left it that way. She graced the golden girl and boy and left them well off and the other two didn’t get even half as much, so there is a lot of resentment between them. Now they are trying to make up for it by enticing my grown children to still be a part of family get togethers. One day my children will tell them like it is, they are outspoken. They need to get it over and done with so they can have closure and let go too, they will in time, but it’s difficult for them. They are still in shock realizing how hateful the Grandma they thought they knew and adored left things so ugly. She excluded them and me after promising them they would be set the last time she saw them and that she was leaving me x amount, she even showed them a ledger. (one that my siblings said never existed. Mom was a book keeper and documented every penny spent long as I’ve known her) They can’t beleive she lied like that. (We feel she didn’t lie deep down and that the siblings have been deceptive all the way) They didn’t deserve being taken down with me, they loved her. They feel like she spit in their face too. (If Mom didn’t lie and they orchestrated this, God help them) So it’s a weird time of year for all of us, but as my son said, he has the power to write his own story, I’m so proud of him for saying that. We are all healing and emotionally coming back together. It is hard for my sons especially, my daughter was always aware and not drawn in, but my sons were used and manipulated against me for a number of years, they’ve realize now how and why they were used and it doesn’t sit right. My siblings revealed their true nature by the will and what happened, they did my family a big favor, it brought the painful reality home so we could all start to really heal. As I tell them, look to the heads, their grandparents, they left this legacy. For the siblings to follow their will to the letter means they are following the directive of evil. I said unless my siblings can admit my parents were wrong and going along with all the things they did against me were wrong, it can never get right, With money involved that day isn’t likely to come. It is time for truths, it just is, for all our sakes.

  12. By: Light Posted: 16th December

    Andria and Alaina – thank you for commenting. I know you and others understand. I’ve been doing some enjoyable things to get through the holidays…bought a small tree, holiday music, cookies, giving to others. It’s going to be OK (at least that’s what I’m telling myself!).

  13. By: Andria Posted: 16th December


    I understand how you feel. “Very little attention or interest in my life. This is fine sometimes, but it’s every time.” I have also felt the ‘undercurrent of disrespect’. No concern for the deteriorating relationship. Of course it is my fault. I had to bring up the fact that there was a problem in the relationship or lack of one.

    I can see how you can be anxious about what to do about visiting or gifting. I sent a card to my father and no gift. I don’t send anything at all to my sister and her family. She has treated me so awfully that I just don’t want to deal with her anymore. Her husband and kids don’t care about us. We never made a blip on their radar screen. My husband and I barely made a blip on my father’s radar. It’s just the way it is.

  14. By: Alaina Posted: 16th December

    About all the family requirements at christmas, I think it’s worth looking into the costs to yourself when you’re doing all these things. Being with family shouldn’t feel like you’ve betrayed yourself, hurt yourself. If a half-way point still consists in doing damage to your well-being, then it is probably not a half-way point; it is quite likely much less than the least you deserve.

  15. By: Light Posted: 16th December

    Received a note from my mother telling me the calendar of who is coming to visit her when over the holidays. Visits stretch out over several days with people coming and going. There are only a few nieces and nephews I’d genuinely like to see, but they are stopping by on their way to somewhere else and they wouldn’t go out of their way to see me…only visit if I happen to be there and even then it’s not quality time. It’s like they are the show and I(we) are the audience. Very little attention or interest in my life. This is fine sometimes, but it’s every time.

    So anxious about whether or not to visit, and the gift-giving.

  16. By: Light Posted: 16th December

    There is also this undercurrent of disrespect. If they respected my feelings, and genuinely liked me, wouldn’t they be just a little humbled and concerned about our deteriorating relationship? Wouldn’t they try to say something to at least meet me halfway (though I do believe I deserve all the way)?

  17. By: Light Posted: 16th December

    For me, they don’t want to accept ALL of me. I am welcome as long as I follow the family rules and don’t have negative feelings regarding the sexual abuse and especially my mother’s limited response to it. If I accept their rules, it means I have to be someone I am not. They want what they consider the “good parts” of me but don’t want to hear about or deal with anything else. Oh yes, they “love” me even though they blame and abandon me.

    Therefore my choices are that I invalidate myself, or they invalidate me. Either way I am invalidated, rejected and abandoned. I guess ultimately it’s better that they invalidate me rather than me invalidating me.

  18. By: Wendy am Posted: 16th December

    Hi Gin,
    Very well written in fact brilliant. Wendy AM

  19. By: Hobie Posted: 16th December


    Any relationship that requires that I be someone other than myself is not a relationship worth having. It’s been a painful road. I’ve just learned that I’ll never really succeed in being what they want me to be, so there’s no point in denying myself for approval I’ll never win.

    Darlene is right.


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