Published on November 18, 2013 It’s not even Thanksgiving, but Christmas is everywhere in New York City, as it has been since the day after Halloween. I no longer dread the holidays the way I once did but the idealized image —of that big, happy, smiling family—still eludes me, as it did during my childhood and later. For unloved daughters and sons, the stress of the holidays sweeps in much more than the nuisance of crowded stores, piped-in joys, worries about money or pleasing everyone with the right gift.
For many, it will conjure up—almost as if fresh and new—the pain, exclusion, and loss they felt in their families of origin. For women who continue to interact with their unloving mothers—for whatever reason—the holidays can throw all the stresses and pains of past and present into high relief. For those who have made the difficult and painful decision of going “no contact,” the holidays sometimes evoke a renewed sense of self-doubt about the decision made, along with a feeling of isolation. The weight of cultural disapproval may feel heavier at this time of year.