Tips on Getting Through Christmas and Family Dysfunction


EFB Christmas flowersI was originally going to title this post “Tips on Getting through Christmas Holidays when Family is an F Word” but I thought perhaps that would offend people who saw it here or in EFB Facebook so I amended the title, but I still wanted to share it with you because sometimes that is how I feel.

Christmas and the holiday season in general is often a really difficult time for anyone who is involved with or has ever been involved with dysfunctional family situations.  It has been at least 6 years now since I have spoken to my mother at Christmas time. Each year is easier. This year when I began to think about writing something about this time of year for my blog, I realized that I don’t think about my family very much anymore during the holidays. For a minute I wondered if I ‘should’ feel guilty about that but the truth is that by their own choice they are not part of my life and when I think about it, there is nothing to miss. I haven’t spent Christmas with my family of origin since I was age 15 with my mother and age 18 with my father.

For those of us who have gone no contact with our families, the holiday season can be a time of questioning our decisions and second guessing ourselves.

For those of us who are getting ready to see abusive or controlling parents during the holidays, it can be a time of anxiety and dread mixed with the hope that things will be better this year.

Here are some Tips for getting through the Holidays;

~ Remember that you are special. You are as special as anyone else in this world no matter how you have been defined otherwise. If people treat you like you are less important than they are, remember that their treatment of you defines THEM, it doesn’t define you.

~ Remember that you are worthy. You deserve to be respected and to be treated with love and care.

~ Remember that LOVE is an action word.

~ Remind yourself that you have equal value and that no one can take that truth away from you.

Celebrate YOU this year.

~Celebrate that you are on the journey to wholeness.

~ Celebrate that you are willing to face the pain and to see the truth about where it actually came from.

~ Acknowledge the child that you were, and remember that children are not born broken or evil. Give yourself love.

~ Set aside some time for yourself. What makes you happy? Chocolate? Watching movies under a fuzzy blanket? Playing sports or watching sports? Taking a bubble bath? Reading a good book?

~ Allow yourself to cry if that is what you need to do.

~ Validate your pain. It comes from somewhere and it isn’t wrong or bad. Validate that having to face the truth about some of the relationships that you have or have had IS painful and that the treatment that we are talking/sharing about here in Emerging from Broken is really horrible.

~ Validate your existence. Validate that you deserve to be loved, respected and nurtured and give that to yourself. 

~ Go out for a walk and acknowledge the beauty in nature. Turn your face up to the sun and give yourself a hug.

~ Think of 5 things that you are grateful for, even if those things are just little things like sunshine, blankets, a bed, toilet paper, or a device that enables you to read this blog.

There is no ‘right or wrong’ when it comes to how we heal. It is okay to be IN the process which means that YOU get to decide how you proceed. The goal isn’t to go no contact and it isn’t to fix the people who are hurting you. The goal is to realize your own value and worth. The goal is to find the false belief system that resulted in the messages that you received about yourself through the actions and or inactions of the people who were supposed to be taking care of you.

I didn’t learn how to think for myself growing up and learning how to think took a while for me. Learning what was “best” (which is always what love is) for me and for others also took some time. I had some stuff to sort out and it took a little time to do that. 

There are many blog posts here that you may find helpful for getting through the holidays. Check the buttons under the header graphic for topics that may interest you. Last years conversations are currently active. There are huge conversations on almost every article and there are over 400 posts. Many people have written to me that they find my book a huge support in the healing process. People are printing it out and using it like a work book! Use whatever you can to continue the process of self-validation. You are worth it!

You can get a copy of the book by clicking the book image in the upper right side bar here or click this book title “Emerging from Broken ~ The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

Please feel free to utilize the comment section of this post as a “meeting place” to share about Christmas when there are difficult family circumstances and to support each other through the holidays.

I wish everyone in the Emerging from Broken Community a wonderful Holiday Season and a Merry Christmas!

Thank you for being a part of my dream to make a difference in a hurting world.

Love and Hugs,

Darlene Ouimet

174 response to "Tips on Getting Through Christmas and Family Dysfunction"

  1. By: Branwen Posted: 3rd December

    Just want today- Xmas coming up and this year, the masks finally came off my family’s faces when I discovered they had lied to me for 40 years. It feels like being eviscerated. I always sensed something was terribly wrong, but of course thought it must be my fault, because how could my golden sister, who I adored, possibly betray me at the deepest possible level for so long? I’m going to read more posts. I’ve found a home here.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd December

      Hi Branwen
      Welcome to Emerging from broken. You are absoloutly NOT alone here and it sounds like you have found the right place.
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Branwen Posted: 3rd December

    New to this site. At last- people who know exactly what they are talking about. I’m very moved and thrilled to encounter all this true wisdom learned the hard way, through experience. Where have you been all my life?! So grateful to everyone here. And Darlene- so glad you’re in the world. Bless you a thousand times.

  3. By: Kris Posted: 2nd December


    I too struggle with the Christmas holiday. I don’t know which is worse. Having my mother actually reach out to me to give me her Christmas gifts knowing full well that the only reason why she is doing it is to make her own self feel better after 3 years of virtually NC with her other then the “cutesy” emails that she sends me laced with underlying messages about how I should remain loyal to my FOO or not hearing from her at all. Either way it is a thorn in my side that I am sick of having to deal with especially when all I want to do is enjoy my holiday without hearing from her yet I still do all at the same time!!! The only good thing is this year I know that it is MY CHOICE on how I want to handle this situation and not hers.

    I am sorry your mother doesn’t give you the warmth and compassion that you deserve but you can’t get blood from a stone and once I realized that I can’t change how my mother thinks anymore then she can me I was able to move forward in my recovery knowing in my heart that this mess isn’t due to anything that I did wrong. It is due to her and her inability to face the truth for whatever reason and she gets to live with that not me.


    Ditto to what you said. At this point in my recovery I don’t know of another way to handle this situation other then what I am already doing. I will continue to send my Christmas and birthday cards to show my love from afar and she will continue to send her cutesy emails as a way to prove that she is right out of her own fears and insecurities and that will be the extent of our relationship until one of us dies!!! Like you, I just wanted my mother’s love and I won’t deny this part of my self that still wants to get it but I am no longer fooling my self about it either. I too never had it to begin with and I most likely never will either. How totally unnecessary and sad is that???… but no one ever said that the truth won’t cause you pain. OUCH!

  4. By: Hobie Posted: 2nd December

    This is my second time around for being estranged myself. It has been getting easier as I’ve recognized the family that I “miss” never really existed anyway. I miss the idea of a family that cared about me. My family doesn’t and I doubt they ever did. I have been building new memories of better Christmases with friends this time. And they really are better memories of feeling welcomed and enjoyed.

    I may never entirely stop wanting a family that loves me, but it’s much less painful as time passes.


  5. By: S1988 Posted: 1st December

    Hobie and Light

    I feel the pain of my family relationship, too, but I’m noticing that for me, the pain isn’t as severe as it used to be since this is the second time I’ve estranged from them.

    Those “loving” cards you both mentioned are similar to some messages I’ve received, too. One I got in my P.O. box months ago actually made me laugh because it was so ironic. “Don’t forget your family.” Like I can forget how they treated and still treat me at times.

    A few days ago, I got a generic email from my “neutral” sister wishing me a happy Thanksgiving. I’m surprised I didn’t hear anything from my mother who usually send me phony “I love you, you’re special” messages.

    To deal with what I’m going through, I keep in mind that I have a good friend in another state (who I visit every year), and her family is like family to me. One doesn’t need to be related to someone to be family.

  6. By: Hobie Posted: 1st December


    I’ve been struggling with the mess of family relationships as we are in the holiday season too.

    I can relate to the message that you got from your mom in a “razzle-dazzle” card. I got the same kind of message in a birthday card in the past year. The handwritten message totally contradicted the printed message. I was also very hurt and very angry. Those kind of actions (or words) typically produce those kinds of feelings. Remember that you’re human and that’s OK.

    No matter what you went through, no one has the right to tell you that it was “almost nothing”. It happened to you and you get to assess the damage because NO ONE ELSE can know better what you’re feeling than you.

    I hope things get better for you. For me, spending time with people who are willing to struggle beside me is probably the best thing I can do for myself. Keep posting 🙂


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd December

      Hi All
      Just catching up (have actually been away on vacation!)
      Re your comments Light;
      I had to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t matter what ‘they say’ anymore. They are wrong. There is no “more serious” abuse… that is SO damn devaluing. And who the hell is she to decide that????? I kept reminding myself that just because someone has an opinion doesn’t make them right. Love (yes they write “I love you.. and other assorted lovely things” is an action word. If there is no action behind it, it isn’t love. I kept reminding myself of that too. Hang in there Light, the holidays are a tough time for many but remind yourself too, that you are on the road to so much better!!!
      Love and hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Light Posted: 1st December

    Is anyone else going through some powerful feelings as we approach the holiday season? I have been sadder than usual and replaying the dysfunction from recent interactions and in years past.

    I keep thinking I should be more productive, but part of me just wants to stay distracted with television, online games, food, etc. It is painful to feel.

    I know we all have painful interactions. Perhaps some of you can relate to this. My latest was with my mother: I wrote her a note asking her some very specific questions re: whether she thought my sexual abuse was “almost nothing” (she said my father’s therapist said that and she’s said my sister’s experience was “more serious”), suggesting two things she could do to help our almost nonexistent relationship, and asking her for info.

    Well, she only addressed one question (I had asked her if she had any solutions for our relationship (she had asked me the same question earlier) and she said she did not. She didn’t even bother responding to the other questions/ideas. The card had glitter on it, and she put several cutesy stickers on it. As if somehow the razzle-dazzle would disguise the fact that her non-response means NO. No she doesn’t want to do the two things I suggested; she thinks my sister’s sexual abuse was “more serious” so NO she doesn’t have support and validation to give me.

    There is so much indirectness and deflection to muddle through – and the pain of her no, and her minimizing my experience…well I alternate between incredible desperate sadness for a real mother, and rage at how she ignores my needs and invalidates me.

    This is EXACTLY what she does. She’s not ignoring me per say i.e. didn’t she send me such a nice card, signed love? (said bitterly)…but she’s totally ignoring the difficult subject and minimizing and invalidating me. It looks like she’s being “nice” but she’s not. Not at all.

    If anyone has any input as to how to respond I’d be interested to hear what you think.

    Meanwhile my GC sister seems very happy that I’m not participating with the family much anymore. I think she likes having all the social contact for herself, and she can be extra mean when I am around her and the family. She’s even said to me recently that she’s very happy lately….I wanted to say “yeh, now that I’ve bowed out!! You get all the attention that you want”.

    My therapist dropped my insurance a year ago so I haven’t had anyone to talk with except occ. with friends. And here. Thank goodness for this website.

  8. By: Tracy Posted: 12th January

    I have been carrying around this sense of pressure on myself to get fixed so I can resume a limited rela with the toxics in my life (certain family).
    This I see is false and yes, I was right years ago when I said to my husband, ” why is it up to me to do all the work?”.
    I see now that the work is to benefit ME not them.

  9. By: Alice Posted: 11th January

    Amber and Darlene.
    Agreed it would make a great post. So often I read that the measure of “successful” therapy or healing is to be able to return to the relationship having “better boundaries” or some ability to not let them dictate how you feel or your reactions towards them. The onus is on the abused to change for the betterment of the relationship and the promise that somehow that change would solicit a change on the part of the people treating you without respect.
    If this is true then I have failed at “therapy” and I have failed at “healing” because I had to remove myself from the relationships.

  10. By: Tracy Posted: 11th January

    I think Darlene’s comment 152 to me was spot on. A clear metaphor.

  11. By: Amber Posted: 11th January

    Darlene, I would LOVE to read a blog that expands on your comment # 152. I think it is an area a lot of us struggle with. I know I kept coming back and standing right in the line of fire in hopes that someone would change; someone would apologize, but of course it not only didn’t happen, but I opened myself up for further mistreatment. But now, being aware that this doesn’t work, I can look at what is really best for me. And sometimes the answer is to just get away from those people.

  12. By: Hobie Posted: 10th January


    Thanks. You’re right. They don’t want a mutually respectful relationship. I HAVE had more peace as I’ve stayed away from them.

  13. By: Kris Posted: 10th January

    Hi Hobie #153… You struck a chord with me when you wrote about how people around you so often see “restored relationship” as the happy ending and how you felt like there should be a way to accomplish this feat yourself too. I believed that lie for so long myself. I kept on thinking that there must be some way that I can do this. What am I missing here? Why can’t I make things work out between me and my FOO and then the reality finally hit me that it doesn’t have anything to do with me not wanting to work things out but everything to do with them and their refusal to see things for how they really are that keeps on getting in the way from us having a mutually respectful relationship. I realized that that’s just not what they are looking for… I am.

    The longer I am on my journey to recovery the more I realize that there is no hope of any type of reconciliation with my FOO. I kept on thinking that the more I healed the less that what they said and did would bother me but what I am finding out is just the opposite. I no longer want to deal with their toxicity anymore and nor should I have to. Life’s too short and I have missed out on too many years of peace already. They don’t know how to have peace. Their lives are filled with chaos that I am no longer interested in. I have chosen to mourn the loss of my FOO while they are still alive and move on with my life in a healthier way. I have them dangling on a thread right now or should I say they have me…but ultimately I know the end is very near. The longer I separate myself from them the easier it is. There are no good memories to make me want to miss them. My life is more peaceful now and I like it that way. I know that there is no way to achieve that with any of them. The whole thing is just plain sad but I didn’t make it this way they did.


  14. By: Amber Posted: 9th January

    Darlene, #152; one of the most valuable responses I have read on your website. Even though it was not written for me, it gave me valuable look into my own life. How many times did I stand right in the line of fire and wonder why people always hit the mark? The thing is that for the longest time I didn’t know there was any other choice. Perhaps as a child I had to take what people dished out as it was a survival mechanism. And then I transferred this to other parts of my life like on the school playground when there were bullies around. I just stood there and took it. Even into adulthood and through relationships and work, I just stood in front of the gun as you say. It was the only way I knew. I won’t kick myself for having done this because I was just continuing to do what I was so well groomed to do from early childhood. Instead, I will enjoy the fact that I have a choice. I don’t have to stand there. And I won’t stand there if someone is being abusive.

  15. By: Yvonne Posted: 9th January

    Dear Melanie (150),

    I like your quote, “You’ve done way too much damage to my soul”. You are not alone and I felt so alone growing up. I had the same issues as you with a Narc mom. When I was twenty, I couldn’t take it anymore dealing with my Narc mom and father who wasn’t really there (but he copied a lot of her behavior) and I had a very serious suicide attempt and ended up in the hospital. Then the real nightmare began where I was taken to a psych. hospital by law. I was terrorized by the doctors and patients (see previous posts).

    Another long story was when I ran away to a woman’s domestic violent shelter–(see previous post). Yes, that was also terrifying. I am not asking for sympathy here, but if I had had decent and kind parents I am almost certain
    that I would have NEVER ended up in these places!

    Both of my parents are quite elderly (mom age 82 and dad nearly 87 years old). They won’t last too much longer–I hope–and there is hope. I can’t take much more of this situation. I live alone in my house which is about a two hour drive away from their town. No, I did not visit them during the holidays. It’s been terribly hard to keep up appearances with past neighbors, social friends, and distant cousins that my family was “normal”. I was always labelled “shy” and never very talkative—I wonder why? It’s not that I was so terribly shy, but I was so ashamed of them that I learned not to let on too much about my real thoughts and feelings to others.

    I’m sure that your life growing up was not too happy. I was not the most popular girl and not allowed to attend school activities or social events. My Narc mom only viewed me as the live-in maid for their big luxury house. But the past is the past. In my adult life, I am happy with my life and friends and hobbies. I’m actually happier now than I was growing up as a kid. Sure, there are a few issues in my life but NOTHING could be as hard as my unhappy childhood! You’re a strong woman to have survived so much.
    Hang in there! I wish you every happiness. Blessed be!

  16. By: Tracy Posted: 9th January

    I suffer from anxiety and depression as well. I am on medication and currently trying out EMDR therapy due to emotional abuse by my N father.

  17. By: Tracy Posted: 9th January

    Thank you for the responses. My children love to ski, and my husband does as well. I feel like I have to be there to visit with my mother , whom I love, but she cowers to my dad. She allows him an audience aming other things. I should mention also that they live in a town where I spent much if my childhood and we were forced to move due to my dad’s impulse. I was traumatized. They moved back a few years later and by then I was in college. I never saw any of my friends again despite my father bringing us back there over and over again. It is a beautiful place, but ….
    When I am there, every fiber of my body is rejecting their energy, or trying to. I cant win the battle as u say, and the effort is killing me, hopefully not literally.

    They represent all that I dont want to be, as far as my views on life. It is like being in the Twilight Zone in their presence. There is definate mental illness and disorder.

    I am afraid to not be there for my boys on the trips.

    There has to be a solution.

    Please keep holding me up , I need it so.

  18. By: Hobie Posted: 9th January

    Darlene – Thank you for your response to Tracy. You’ve made it make so much sense.

    People around me so often see “restored relationship” as the happy ending, I sometimes feel like I *should* reach a point of being able to have a limited contact relationship with my family by not allowing their insults to hurt me. I keep wondering why I should spend my time with them if they’ve proven to me that they will NOT “put down the gun.”

    I want to become the person I am meant to be. Packing on armor to protect myself from them is not going to help me get there. It’s so much more productive to just stay away from their kingdom.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 11th January

      First of all I just realized that I neglected to welcome Melanie to this group!

      Welcome Melanie!! Glad you are here! It is great that you realize who actually held the responsibility in the failure of the relationship you are speaking of!

      Everyone ~ re my comment to Tracy (152)
      I guess sometimes I just need to SAY IT… I was worried that my comment was too blunt but thanks for the feedback from Hobie and Amber!
      I might write a new blog and expand on that one!
      hugs, Darlene

  19. By: Tracy Posted: 9th January

    I just returned from a ski vacation for my kids. I saw my parents on and off for 4 days~ I feel stress in every ounce of my body. I did all the things my therapist suggested, to the best of my ability. I am feeling the need to regroup physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I am depleted. I try so hard not to repeat the exhausting cycle- and it happens every time. Every time I am affected.
    My father in N’istic and my mother in an enabler. They are also fear based people. I cannot tell them how they affect me because they aren’t capable of hearing it. This dysfunction has affected me in ways I cant even explain. For the 100th time I see how messed up the family dynamic is. I went on this trip for my kids, and I feel sick.
    How do I recover and not beat myself up for not being able to shield from the pain?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 9th January

      Hi Tracy
      my heart goes out to you here. What is good about this for your kids? (stress in every ounce of your body). It doesn’t really matter if your parents are not capable of hearing you ~ the fact remains that they don’t hear you (actually the truth is that they refuse to hear you) so the cycle continues. You ask how to recover and not beat yourself up because you can’t shield yourself from the pain. I was the same way until I realized that I could not shield myself from the ones holding the gun. The bullet was going to hit the target until I stopped standing in front of the gun. Shielding myself from the pain (and making it all my responsibility and all my failure) was not the solution. I could not shield myself from the bullets that they continued to shoot at me and that was NOT my failure. Once I saw it I realized that I could make a new choice.
      Hang in there!
      hugs, Darlene

  20. By: Melanie Posted: 8th January

    WOW, such a breath of fresh words to read there are so many like myself out here.
    Seriously, I think you should have a reunion for us souls who have endured a lifetime with persons who gave birth to us. How wonderful it would be to put faces to names and give each other hugs.
    I myself haven’t spoken to my mother, the final time, in five years.
    She died of brain cancer last February. Have I thought about why I don’t miss her? Yes. Did she nearly cost me my life 5 years ago to a serious suicide attempt? Yes. I “respected” her up until 5 years ago at which time I found out I had another grandchild I didn’t know about BUT she did. That’s when I finally said the words I’d wanted to say to her for a VERY LONG TIME – “If I thought you were the shittiest meanest mother on earth, you took the taco. I didn’t think you could get any worse but you proved me wrong. You were an even shittier mean grandmother. This is the last time I will EVER talk to you. You’ve done way too much damage to my soul. How dare you, but most of all how dare I allow you to have done it for so long.” She was stammering and I heard her start her screaming repertoire as I was hanging up.
    That’s when I drove to a very busy highway access road. I thought I’d timed it right when I stepped in front of a “Dooley” truck. Fortunately, he was able to stop. Miracle – yes. I never talked to the driver to find out how he did it. I thought I had timed it right, but fortunately it wasn’t my time to leave Planet Earth.
    I sought intense therapy and thank goodness my therapist and I hit it off. I didn’t truly realize how much damage my mother had done to me and my children for at least 3 years in to therapy. The last 2 years of therapy I found where my true self was. I started to live once my true self came shining thru and I am very strong for it to this very moment.

    This was the first Christmas since my mother died. I didn’t hear very much from her other spawns (my so-called sister and brother). What I “heard” was thru cousins who find them very pathetic.
    I breathe easy now.
    She’s gone off this Planet. The damage she done happened, but it no longer controls me. I was 17 years old when I had my first child. I had no idea how she started to poison him against me since he was able to understand words. I always wondered why he was the way he was. Such a very difficult little boy, but I loved him none the less. Still do.
    My youngest son filled me in on what my mother had said to he and his brother nearly their entire lives. My youngest son chose not to listen to her and he thought she was crazy as all hell. He told me all of this after I found out his brother had a second child. THAT was the grandchild my mother knew about and kept from me. That’s how she almost took my life.
    But I get the final laugh…I LIVE every day now. She’s dead and gone.
    I know how hard I tried to “have a relationship with her” but she was too mean. That wasn’t my fault. It was hers and she took it to her grave with her. In case you’re wondering- NO I never saw or spoke to her after I told her off that day.
    Someone dying doesn’t make what they did go away. There was NO POINT whatsoever for me to be anywhere near her as she passed from this Planet.
    I’ve never regretted my decision. I smile now and from what I understand, I have a beautiful smile!
    I just want to say to everyone here that I know and feel your pain.

  21. By: d ch Posted: 7th January

    Thanks Kris and Eira. Eira, whenever I have questioned her actions or told my NM she was wrong in what she said or did…she has ranted, raved, had excuses, twisted my words, denied, justified herself, I don’t anymore.

    She has done so much damage with her mouth.

    She’s the Mother, She’s elderly,She can do whatever
    Her reputation is hers….Mine is mine. That is my solace.

  22. By: Kris Posted: 7th January


    Amen to that too!!!!

  23. By: Kris Posted: 7th January

    d ch #138

    I wanted to tell you that I think you are on the right path. When you said how you need to stop worrying about what other people believe about you that is such a huge realization because when you are able to do that you take back your power away from them and they no longer have any leverage against you to ruffle your feathers and to keep you stuck in their sick cycle of mass destruction. They are left basically talking to themselves at that point until they find the next victim to abuse just like Eira said.

    Amen to that!!!

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