December 9, 2020

How to Love our Difficult Family in Difficult Times.

I recently wrote about the tough decision to forgo Thanksgiving with family because of the increased rates of COVID-19 in our area.

There was good and bad that came from that decision.

One of our nephews was sick and ended up getting some of the other members of my husband’s family sick. I don’t think it was COVID-19, but I’m glad we didn’t get it, regardless.

On the other hand, my mother has been upset with me and my sister and is not speaking to us. We’ve left a few messages, and my sister managed to get a partial response, and nothing after that.

I’m sure we’re not alone in having some family upset. There are probably many other people who are going through these situations, because family drama is hard to get away from.

I want to remind those who might feel spited by decisions to avoid family gatherings that we are doing this out of love. We don’t want to potentially spread the virus any more than we might already have. Even if some people aren’t afraid of it, many others are. Distancing ourselves can also be about self-preservation. I personally am doing my best to not get it, as even the long-haul effects seem pretty detrimental. 

I also want to remind those who are dealing with animosity or upset from family that their loved ones also have their own baggage. My mother has told me stories of growing up that lead me to believe she’s been through some traumatizing situations. Those are her stories to tell, though.  

So, the biggest reminder is that we still need to be kind, even when it’s one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. When a loved one is being hurtful, it can be easy to blame them for everything they’ve ever done that we perceive to be as “wrong.” The point is they are doing the best they can with what they have.

I don’t know about you, but my parents grew up in the generation where therapy was only for the psychotic and having a mental breakdown meant staying in a hospital away from everyone else. There was no normalization of trauma and the therapy that could help. They had to be tough and suck everything up.  

Does that sound familiar? Maybe your parents told you the same thing. This is a generational thing. Trauma and experiences are passed down through generation after generation.

The awesome part is, though, that some of us are realizing this and are tired of it. We are doing our own work to try to end these cycles. One of the things we can do to start ending these cycles is being kind to our loved ones. Instead of telling them the same things we were told—to suck it up—we can remember that they have their own issues.

It can be hard, I know. There have been times when I have wanted to blame my mom for not seeing these cycles and getting the help she probably should have received. But that has simply not been her journey. Her journey was to bring me and my sister into this world so we could have our own journeys. Rather than play the blame game, my sister and I can now take it upon ourselves to do the work to break these cycles, and to show our mom love no matter what’s going on between us.

That doesn’t mean we have to pander to her, by any means, but when she is ready to talk to us again, we can tell her how we felt and why we are physically distancing ourselves. It is then up to her to do with that information what she wants. We can respect that, but still hold firm with what we believe.

It can also mean possibly distancing ourselves emotionally. This can give us the space to be okay if she doesn’t want to speak to us for a while, rather than stressing and worrying about what we did wrong (likely nothing) and if she will ever speak to us again.

For any family member (or even close friend) who is upset by and doesn’t agree with how we are handling COVID-19 and the holidays, we can send them love from afar and not beat ourselves up about the situation.

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