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Broken Homes, Whole Holidays

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For as long as I can remember I've had to juggle my two families. As a child, I clung to my mother and step-father, their son (my half brother) and all of their relatives as my home base. Yet another side of my family, my father, his relatives and, much later, his wife and their son (my other half brother) were also crucial to my sense of reality. My Dad's home was not only the other side my family, but also the other side of myself.

As an adolescent and young adult I made my own way fairly early - I left for college and never again lived at home except for extended vacations here and there. I met and married and had my children and my own divorce and subsequent remarriage, leaving my sons to fend for their right to feel whole--to not only know me and my relatives and their step-father and his family, but also to deeply know, feel and love their father and his relatives and family.

Especially around the holidays, unresolved conflicts around divorce, mixed families, complex relationships and old scars can leave you quite breathless and out of sorts. People can tend to feel pulled in too many directions, unsure of who they should spend which holiday with, or even disconnected from their own preferences and unclear about where, if anywhere, they'd really like to be. Choosing one parent over another, or one sibling over another can seem so daunting it may be easier just to forget the whole thing and avoid family altogether.

But working through this, if possible, and with the compassion and love of all involved, is worth it. Explaining to people gently that your choices matter to you and that you are not forsaking one person for another or choosing one person over another but simply opting for one instead of another in order to share a particular experience with them can help. In not wanting to hurt the feelings of those we love we sometimes miss out on a great opportunity to spend New Year's, or Hanukkah, or Christmas, or whatever you celebrate with the tried and true Mom's side of the family, never even giving Dad's family a chance to really get to know us. Or vice versa.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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