At the beginning of every new year, there’s a load of messages out there about making a new start.
But not everyone has the energy to do that in January. For parents of estranged adult children, the past few months have likely been stressful.
Worrying about what to do about the holidays, and whether and when to do it; walking on eggshells in what feels like a fragile detente; or steeling yourself against a series of disappointments…
Those all take a toll on your mental and physical health.
If you’ve emerged from the holiday season feeling exhausted, drained, or just plain numb, it’s okay let yourself off the hook this month.
January is known as goal-setting month. The pressure on all of us to make a new start is both social and internal. We want to see improvements in various parts of our lives. And we know that goals mark our intentions. Plus, everyone around us is doing it.
Goals can be useful. But not every useful thing is useful all the time. If you’re alone in the desert and dying of thirst, your normally useful credit card won’t help.
The mindset and energy of goal-setting might not be compatible with where you are right now. No matter how much you may want to participate in the “new year, new you” hoopla, the need to recover from the impact of a hundred holiday-season stressors takes precedence.
But what’s a grieving, exhausted parent to do when everyone around them is heading to the gym, cooking from scratch and learning a new language? How do you stay in step and avoid feeling even more alienated this month than last?
What to Do Instead
The first thing to do is be honest with yourself about where you are. Kindly and gently, say what you’re noticing. E.g., “I don’t feel like setting goals. I’m exhausted.”
Or, “It feels wrong not to think of the new year in a hopeful way, but I don’t feel hopeful.”
Or, “I have things I want to work on, but I can’t seem to get motivated.” Or whatever is true for you.
Write down what you notice. Then read what you’ve written, without judgment. The way you feel is not a character flaw.
Next, ask yourself, “What do I need?” What you need is not selfish. It’s simply a need.
Some of the emotional needs we all share are for belonging, companionship, and visibility (being deeply seen and known). Other needs we share are for food, water, reliable shelter and good old-fashioned sleep.
Feelings and needs must never be judged, and especially not condemned.
Removing self-criticism will lighten your load this month while you recover from the ordeal of holiday-season estrangement from family.
Goals for Rejected Parents
No matter how tapped out you feel, you can be there for yourself simply by noticing and caring about your experience. If that’s all you can manage this month while you rest and recover, so be it. Don’t confuse right now with forever; everything changes with time. Just fill your heart with self-compassion, and live in this moment.
If you have a mind to set some goals, why not prioritize what you learned in the exercise above?
Let’s say you feel a strong need for companionship; what can you do to meet that need? Wishing for a renewed relationship with your estranged adult child is natural, but it’s a poor strategy for meeting your needs, since it’s not entirely within your control. What can you do to meet that need now? What’s available to you, either immediately or with a bit of effort?
If you notice you’re exhausted, perhaps setting a goal of getting more sleep could be a priority. Research has yielded good information about how we can invite more and better sleep. RC members may want to exchange ideas in the General Discussion forum.
Now is not the only good time for goals. If you need to rest and recover, that need will assert itself no matter what you do, so it might be best to go with it. If people inquire about your goals, “Rest” is valid. Many people in all sorts of circumstances would benefit from more peace, more calm, and deep relaxation this year.
You can set other goals later if you want to. Any day can be the start of a new year. For now, rest and recovery are legitimate goals that just might fit the bill.
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