Christmas Without Your Kids: Naomi’s daughters have cut off contact

For many people, Christmas is a warm, family celebration, all about light and love. But it is precisely during the holidays that old pains can surface, for example because you miss a loved one. Therapeutic relationship specialist Naomi* (53) knows all about this. Ten years ago, her two daughters broke off contact with her.

Parental alienation: Naomi had never heard of this term until she encountered it herself a decade ago. There are misunderstandings about the term, but the bottom line is that as a parent you are rejected by your child or children. “I come from the Cape Verde Islands. It’s really taboo there, because they’re old school there,” says Naomi. “Family ties are very important.”

In 2012, after a relationship of 22 years, she ended her marriage. “After our divorce, our daughters, who are now 30 and 25, chose to stay with me. During that time they were angry with their father and didn’t want to have contact with him.” She suspects this has something to do with his sense of loyalty towards her. “We let the girls choose who they wanted to live with. It was with their mom and my ex-husband agreed.”

Naomi encouraged her daughters to stay in touch with their father despite their feelings about the divorce. “I encouraged them to restore contact.” But when they start visiting him, her daughters turn against her. “It started with disrespectful behavior. I always raised my daughters with values ​​like: honoring your parents, speaking two words. But when they came home, I felt nervous, hostile and above all with arrogant behavior.”

Cut the pain in my heart. I felt despair and panic

This continued to simmer for a while until Father’s Day. “Then the wild behavior got worse. I am not at all into conflicts and called my mother and asked a friend for advice. Her advice was to stay calm, but don’t let her walk all over me; children should respect their parents.”

Because Naomi confronted her daughters about their behavior, an argument ensued. This escalated with their departure as a result. My ex-boyfriend took the girls home and left without a word.” Later they came to collect their things and it became painfully clear that Naomi’s daughters were going to live with their father. “The pain ripped through my heart. I was desperate and panicked, and didn’t know what to do. Despite their behavior, I did not expect this at all. I was hoping it would go well, that everyone would reflect and that the conversation would continue.”

Radio silence

But now, ten years later, there is still complete radio silence between Naomi and her daughters. “They just wanted their stuff and that was it, no conversation. My ex never encouraged contact.”

After a period of mourning, she realized her life had moved on. “You have to work and carry on with your daily life, no matter how hard it is.” She wore a mask with colleagues, acquaintances and friends. “I said nothing for a moment of shame. It even broke me emotionally. I slept badly, ate badly.”

I was the one who blew up the marriage balloon

“Then I sought psychological help from a specialist,” Naomi continues with her story. “She told me that children often choose the parent who struggles out of loyalty. Their father was sick and pathetic, saw me in the role of the victim, and I was the one who blew the marriage balloon. It went well with me after the divorce: actually only better. Then you become the ‘culprit’ psychologically.” .

The struggle continues to this day. At first I wrote letters, cards and called. Hang up and return the cards. I haven’t seen them five times in all those years. The last time was in 2019, before I moved. Then I reached out to them by mail, because I still had a lot of baby stuff.”

The message her daughters sent was clear: Don’t look for us, don’t call us. “It is very painful to feel the hostility and accusations. It was also difficult for me to see that my daughters had grown up and that I was not affected by that. They also do not have contact with my relatives.”

Holidays without children

Now is the month of December, with Christmas and New Year approaching. “Until a few years ago, besides birthdays, the holidays were the hardest moments,” says Naomi. “You experience sadness and despair. When I was single, I would sometimes go to my parents or a friend. Later I stayed at home alone. It was not easy for years.” She is now in a new relationship.

I will wait lovingly. My heart is still open

Still losing her daughters. “I will wait lovingly. My heart is still open. I realize that life is too precious and beautiful to be spent grieving. I pray for them every day and meditate. This is my way of maintaining connection.”

She cherishes the hope that one day it will be okay. “The hope is definitely there, just know it can get harder with age. For example, I have no idea if they have partners or kids.” She is now a relationship therapist herself. She started that study while she was married. “Based on my life story, I have developed a certain picture and vision on this subject. Everyone has their own life path to walk. Life is a value, it is there to live.”

Continue to think compassionately about the other person

She has some advice, though, and stresses that each situation is tailor-made: “Live in spite of everything, keep going. Suppose your life has come to a halt because your lover doesn’t kiss you, isn’t that a shame? Find out what works for you, and what helps you to turn that button on. Stay.” Keep your heart open. Keep thinking of the other person with love and compassion. It gives off a completely different feeling, a different energy, than feeling your own grief.”

According to Naomi, you can try to “make up for it,” but it doesn’t always go over so well. Certainly not just before Christmas, when it can seem forced, as if your intention isn’t pure. “Notice what intention you have in wanting to make amends now. Why not yesterday, why today? If your intention is pure, then do it. If it is intended to relieve pain, I advise you not to. You can always write a letter or card and not send it until it is done.” Restore the contact and then show it. With that show: I’ve been thinking about you all this time.”

Fixing family conflict: Advice from a relationship therapist

“Especially around Christmas time, you feel more pain when family relationships don’t turn out the way you want them to,” says Hetty Verkruijssen, individual and relationship therapist. You see many examples in her practice. “Your son doesn’t want to go home for Christmas, your parents are turning you away, there is a complete silence between you and your sister, there is tension between you and your partner. How painful it is, how would you like it to be different.”

She has some tips for restoring a relationship.

1. Don’t try to change the other person

“The first piece of advice is that you don’t try to change the other person. Accept what the other person is choosing in that moment. Don’t pull on the other person. You can say you’re sorry, but not as manipulative. You can pray about this. Then bless everyone in your family with whom the relationship doesn’t work.” It’s fine and do it daily. Suppose you have a difficult relationship with your sister and your children know it too: pray out loud at the table to bless your sister for Christmas. That takes courage.”

2. Be attentive

“The second tip is: be thoughtful with something you know the other person appreciates: a birthday piece, a candle, or a box of coffee or tea. Keep it small. It could also be a Christmas card with some kind words.”

3. Think on your part

Finally, I advise you to think about your role in the estrangement between you and the other person. Ask God to open your eyes to this. Acknowledge it first in a conversation with someone you feel comfortable with — someone who doesn’t brush it off right away.”

Is it appropriate to inform the relevant family members afterward? Sometimes not – especially when the other person immediately ignores his share. However, such a situation can only be changed by a conversation in which you are both willing to listen to each other. It is often beneficial to do this with a third party And yes, it hurts a lot when the other person doesn’t want to talk, but then again you’ll have to accept that.”

“But,” Verkroysen adds, “I doubt whether it would be beneficial to restore the relationship at a time like this just before Christmas. You may feel that you are only doing it because Christmas is coming and not because you really want the relationship to heal.”

* This name has been changed for privacy reasons

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