Holidays and Loss in a Fractured Family

Not all holiday memories are fond. In fact, many people proclaim that they’re hiding out or finding an escape route during this season of forced festivity.

Emotional distress looms largely for the lonely and bereaved. Extreme challenges and additional difficulties are presented from cultural pressures to be jolly rather than being authentic especially for the newly bereaved.

Offering a mixed bag of memories, emotions, familiar smells, nostalgic songs holiday rituals usually stimulate memories of people and holidays past, provoking painful unresolved issues from longstanding difficulties.

“Loss and Grief are as universal as a smile.” Bereavement is a natural process that results from the loss of anything or anyone we are attached to: a loved one, a pet, a relationship (divorce), the loss of health, independence, occupation, financial security and more.

The language of our culture, and many other cultures, is full of terms, which acknowledge that we feel “bad” or “hurt” after a loss, a tragic event or estrangement from the living. Loss of the dream of having a loving living family is very deep, distressing and often profoundly inexplicable.

Society assumes that losses concerning the living are fixable. The myth “that blood is thicker than water” can catapult the estranged members with fractured family relationships into tremendous shame.

The bereavement process is unique for each individual/each family, in how balance is sought. Some individuals must break away from family ties to begin to establish personal balance. If you are in that situation, choose wisely and honor your highest good.

Fractured Family Loss provokes deep shame

Families professing the belief that agreement is what good families exhibit forbid challenge or dissension. Disagreements regarding life choices, religion, politics, careers, divorce, money, domestic violence and incest are just some of the psychic and pragmatic deal breakers that tear living family members apart. When narcissism and hubris rules, discussion and reason fails.

Ostracizing loss can be difficult to express when our family of origin is still alive and absolutely not available in a nurturing way. Being unable to change the situation without abandoning our personal integrity, we often experience guilt and shame.

In such a family, to be loved, included and respected, we must support the family dogma. If our family of origin continually breaks our heart, brings us down, re-traumatizes and drains our self worth then let’s redefine the word selfish to “care of the self.”

Yes, we share genetic coding with our relatives, and family is composed of those people who cradle our delicate hearts lovingly. Re-defining and re-creating a new adopted family of genuinely loving people is a step on the path to personal healing and awakening.

Fractured Family Loss during the holidays is often ignored and held secretly, shamefully and painfully. When family members are alive and yet out of our emotional reach (for many different reasons) we must find inner resources to declare ourselves worthy of love and joy and find it in our own unique familial way.




Lyn Prashant

More Articles Written by Lyn

Lyn Prashant, PhD., FT., IGT., IGC, is the Founder and Training Director of the process called Degriefing®. Lyn is an internationally recognized professional grief counselor, engaging lecturer, published author, and therapeutic massage therapist/teacher specializing in transforming grief by using grief as “the most available untapped, emotional resource for personal transformation”. She teaches at the Mayo Clinic, U.C. Berkeley, California Pacific Medical Center; training health care professionals, hospice workers, hospital staffs, community leaders and it’s members. Lyn, fluent in Spanish, has offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. She can be reached at and 415.457.2272 Lyn presents this work internationally in honor of her late sister Donna and her late husband Mark. Lyn’s parents, Harriet and Nathan Smith, live in Boynton Beach, Florida, and a younger sibling, Karen Miro, and her two children live in South Salem, New York. To Listen to Lyn on Open to Hope Lyn was featured on the Open to Hope Foundation radio show program “Healing the Grieving Heart” on October 22, 2009. You can listen to her in the archives of this program at .


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  • Pamela Hall says:

    I relocated home in 2009 at my parents’ request. As the caregiver of my mom of 68, I (age 44) came in like a whirlwind getting up appts, escorts to clinics, hospitals, HBO sessions for amputees.. Spending countless moments of care with her. We’ve always been close. I’d call her everyday, visit often, and all my life take on any training that would enable me to care for them. A severe diabetic, with a multitude of health concerns that we addressed as a team; we became quite the duo. I love them so much and they respect my opinion – leaving me to lead our large close net family. Dad works a lot, but they had a lovely relationship for 40 yrs. until she died suddenly of heart failure on Aug. 2014. We both were with her-at the end. Me doing CPR, dad calling 911. So,why can’t I get the image of his newly introduced ” friend of 48 yrs” out of my head? He kept their calls a secret for 3 months and 23 days, before being outed by my husband at church. A day later he’s smiling and “selling her good praises to me” for immediate approval and acceptance. My silence is deafening. Then she calls the family house to talk to her “sweetie”. Dad gives the phone to me for bonding. Despite my misgivings, I disclose that it’s too soon. The death, then both holidays (turkey day and Christmas and mom’s birthday in Dec. I keep getting slammed. Girlfriend states I need to “be realistic as they are growing close. Maybe in love. Your father is an adult and you’re no child”. New year’s a few days away. Dad introduces her to the rest of the extended family… Mom’s siblings. They’re all looking to me. I just want to run away. How do I cope? Signed Overwhelmed with loss