Sad­dened by the end of a 30-year hol­i­day tra­di­tion

The Idaho Statesman - - Obits/explore - BY CAROLYN HAX Email Carolyn at tellme@wash­post.com or chat with her on­line at noon ET each Fri­day at www.washingtonpost.com.

Dear Carolyn: Our ex­tended fam­ily – sib­lings and kids – have al­ways gath­ered at Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas. Last week I got a text from my sis­ter say­ing she and her fam­ily would be go­ing away for the hol­i­day and would no longer host Christ­mas Eve at their home.

This came out of the blue and is re­ally up­set­ting me. My brother and I have both been wid­owed in the last four years and this event was some­thing we looked for­ward to be­cause ev­ery­one at­tended and it was a lot of fun. (My brother has grown chil­dren; I do not.) We feel sur­prised and un­wanted and don’t un­der­stand the de­ci­sion.

Of course it is their right to cel­e­brate as they wish, and I kick my­self for ex­pect­ing a 30-year tra­di­tion to con­tinue on. But I can’t fig­ure out how to feel OK about this. I feel re­jected, and I don’t know why they would do that.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so painful if I had a fam­ily of my own, but I no longer do. Any ad­vice? I haven’t said any­thing ex­cept, “I’m dis­ap­pointed” to my sis­ter.

– Left Out in Min­nesota Dear Left Out: I’m sorry. Change is hard, changes that sub­tract time with loved ones are harder, and changes to long­stand­ing tra­di­tion (de­liv­ered by text, ugh) can feel like a death – as if the tra­di­tion it­self was a fam­ily mem­ber, too.

So you don’t have to “feel OK about this.” At least, not now, as you get used to the change. It’s been only a week.

It’s also re­ally good that you stuck to the lim­ited “I’m dis­ap­pointed” re­sponse. As you said your­self, this is their hol­i­day to plan as they choose, so push­back would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate. Worse, it could sour your re­la­tion­ship with your sis­ter, which could then retroac­tively tar­nish past Christ­mas Eves.

This dis­ap­point­ment may have come to you from the out­side, but your work now is strictly in­ter­nal and doesn’t in­volve your sis­ter – ex­cept, gen­uinely, when you’re ready: “I’ll miss the tra­di­tion, but I ad­mire you for hav­ing the courage to do what you needed. Car­ry­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions of the en­tire fam­ily for three decades can’t have been easy for you.

“Thank you for those 30 years.”

Which beats be­rat­ing her for the 31st.

Which brings me to the next point: Isn’t fa­tigue more than enough to ex­plain “why they would do that”? You men­tion grown kids and 30-year tra­di­tions and wid­ow­hood (my con­do­lences), so I hope I can in­of­fen­sively de­duce that you’re all in the slow­ing-down years. There­fore, you have the op­tion to in­ter­pret this as a slow­ing-down, pe­riod, ver­sus tor­tur­ing your­self with ways to take it per­son­ally.

Slow­downs bring their own grief for sure, but they have noth­ing to do with be­ing “re­jected,” “left out” and/or “un­wanted.” You can be wanted and ac­cepted yet still af­fected when the terms of in­clu­sion must change.

So you don’t have to feel OK about this any time soon, but I urge you to turn your thoughts – as soon as you’re ready – to in­clu­sion that’s eas­ier on ev­ery­one. Smaller groups, non-hol­i­day times of the year, more em­pha­sis on lo­cal con­nec­tions. Whom can you host for Christ­mas Eve? Your brother and his kids? Do you have friends in your po­si­tion?

In cos­mic grat­i­tude for 30 years of warm in­clu­sion, whom can you now in­clude?

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