How To Navigate The Holidays With A Dsyfunctional Family


I recently attended a screening of the extraordinarily acted, yet emotionally wrenching “August Osage County”. With Meryl Streep portraying possibly the worst screen Mother in history – a drug addicted, emotionally abusive monster of a woman. I thanked God that my dear saint of a mother, who was the total opposite. The movie also got me thinking that there have to be millions of people for whom the holiday season is a nightmare, a visit back to the dysfunctional psychodrama that was first produced in their childhoods and continues to play out in their adult lives.

So here is my advise on how to survive, if your family is less, than a loving one.

1. You first. Period. – My beloved spirit guide and friend, August Gold (check her out at recently gave a talk about the importance of placing your own well-being first and foremost. There simply is no way for you to heal anyone else, unless you feel good yourself. Thus, in this situation, while it is important to acknowledge key family members during the holiday season, there is no reason that you have to physically spend the holidays with them. Send gifts, make calls, but also take care of yourself. If family holidays are abusive emotionally, then spend them with friends or pampering yourself. In the words of great spiritual teacher Madisyn Taylor, “When you take care of yourself, your capacity to give to others expands exponentially, and so does your innate joyfulness.”

2. Spend the holidays alone recharging both physically and emotionally. – The first Christmas I ever had to spend alone in Europe was so blissful that I replicate it often. I got in every fashion and gossip magazine on the newsstand, tons of good food, great movies, and good books. I listened to great holiday music, took a lush bath full of product, did a complete facial and just padded around eating well and completely chilling, in my plushest robe, for the entire day. There was ZERO drama and a lot of rest and healing took place.


3. Save family visits for less emotionally charged times. – There is something about Christmas that just makes us more emotional. We all have this perfect image of how we want the day to go that usually doesn’t happen. And if you have abusive family members, you can depend on them to push your buttons at Christmas because of that vulnerability. For example, I loved my sister and father. But he was an often tactless, bear of a man, who was tons of work emotionally and pitted one kid against the other. And my sister turned every family get together into an opportunity to punish the entire family for the innumerable things, she felt we did wrong to her. With three hundred plus other days to endure them, I decided that Christmas was just not one of them.

4. Can the guilt . – Remember you cannot heal your dysfunctional family dynamic unless you do some serious spiritual work on yourself. So unless you are ready and feel you can handle it, there is no guilt in taking care of yourself. High holy days are just that – days that should be put aside to reflect spiritually. Nowhere is it decreed that you have to spend them in a miserable state with a dysfunctional family.

5. Get In and Out Quickly. – If you absolutely have to face the holidays with abusive family members then get in and get right out. Ideally arrive on the day before and be right back out the day after.

6. Plan A Post Visit Getaway. – Plan a getaway to detox and relax immediately after a family visit. There is nothing more essential than detoxification, physically and emotionally, after exposure to emotionally difficult encounters. So if you have to make that visit, plan ahead to balance yourself for re-entry into a more healthy state of being.

7. Be aware not to replicate the same family drama in your relationships. – And finally, make sure that you have not attracted people, who essentially abuse you in the same way your family did. Often we are so used to crazy and dsyfunction that, even though we may have cut it off in our families, we find replacements in friends and acquaintances. To my surprise, even after doing tons of spiritual work, I spent two holidays with someone who also was not her best at holidays. I realized that I was re-creating the crazy I was used to and allowing it to channel through her. Fortunately, realization is the first key to change, so I got past that.

That Girl At the Party

I am a proud blogger of 11 years, Founder of Canappetit, PR person, Web and Cannabis Entrepreneur, Founder of the LTN Card, the Let Love Festival and the Henley Foundation, aunt to 12 and human to Bodhi and Yoko Rey

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