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  • Writer's pictureRMTC Team

Celebrating the Holidays: Estrangement, Distance, and Blended Families

Mental Well-Being, Counselling, Counsellor, Ontario
Virtual family Christmas call

Welcome to December! This month is often filled with joy, excitement, and celebrations around with loved ones. However, you may also be experiencing loneliness, anxiety, sadness, or relived trauma. In fact, “52% of Canadians report feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation during the holiday season” (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2022).

For those experiencing isolation during the holidays, it can be for a variety of reasons. One of which is estrangement from family or friends. You may be questioning what qualifies as estrangement. Estrangement is when you no longer feel a sense of closeness or affection towards someone and/or a lack of a relationship that previously existed. Estrangement can occur when there have been longstanding negative experiences within certain relationships (Psychology Today). It can become more of a significant stressor or concern around the holidays, creating a longing for connection with others, triggering memories of past holidays, and a general sense of being overwhelmed by the hecticness of it all.

For those who are estranged from loved ones, the expectations and comments from others combined with your expectations can contribute to a more negative holiday season, affecting your mental well-being. This can be seen through unsolicited comments such as “Happy holidays, I hope you have an awesome time with your family!” or expectations for yourself, such as thinking “I’m not celebrating with my own parents on Christmas Day, I’m a bad person.” Accordingly, Bhavani Narayanan, MSc., RP (Qualifying) shares that “We see a lot in media, for example, a lot of happy family moments around the holidays, but that is not the case for some people. I think it is a matter of figuring out your own family troop that is not necessarily blood-related to you and finding happy moments in those groups of people.”

Celebrating the holidays with distant loved ones can also impact your well-being. Many people have loved ones that live a significant distance away from their location. With the busyness of the season, sometimes you are not able to join everyone that you love for the holidays. Especially due to the impact of the pandemic, you may feel at risk travelling for the holidays. In these moments, you should remind yourself that your relationships are not at risk and that the connection can still exist beyond the holiday celebrations.

Being apart during the holidays can provoke feelings of loneliness; which you can combat by connecting with these distant loved ones virtually and filling your happy moments with the ones that you can meet in person for holiday celebrations. We also suggest validating your feelings about not being able to see everyone you might like to during this season. It does not make you a bad family member, friend, or loved one if you cannot travel to accommodate another person or group of people. This also comes with boundaries and the foresight to recognize your own experiences during this time.

Blended families can also provide a negative holiday experience due to the stress of managing which side of the family to see first, on which day, gift-giving, and more. Karla Rivera MA., RP (Qualifying) shares that “Having a blended family dynamic is not necessarily the most triggering or hardest part, but rather, sharing your children and not being there for them during the holidays. You could ask yourself ‘How do you care for yourself when your children aren’t with you during the holidays?’ Remember that your children cannot have “too much” love. It can also be helpful to remember what your deepest intentions are for your children and yourself. Using these intentions to help anchor yourself and choose what you want to focus on. Recognize that as parents, you model and inform how your children see and experience the world and use this as a guide, ask your children and yourself, ‘How do you want to feel?’ and lastly, focus on these experiences and being present with your children to make lasting memories!”

Relationship Matters Therapy Centre is a private therapy practice in downtown Galt, serving Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Guelph in-person, or Ontario-wide online. If you’re looking to book an appointment with any one of the therapists at Relationship Matters you may contact us via email at, or by phone at 226-894-4112. 


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