'I've been estranged from my stepmum for 6 years. It makes Christmas an emotional minefield.'

It's supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year".

So why doesn't it feel like that?

For a lot of people, Christmas isn't a special, celebratory time. If anything, it's an emotional minefield - made even more complicated when there's estrangement at play.

It's a reality I know all too well. 

It's been six years since I last saw my stepmother and her adult child, aka my step-sibling. Six years since that giant blowup. Six years spent awkwardly trying to dodge one another at extended family events. Six years of wondering how the other is doing or if they ever wonder about you. Six years of resentment. Six years of silence. 

Watch: things mums never say at Christmas. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia. 

After our fight, which for context was centred heavily upon her alcoholism and also our mutual disdain for one another, my stepmother and I chose to no longer communicate. It was the right decision, a healthy call for both of us in fact. 

Fortunately, the three-year pandemic made it far easier not to speak to each other. And six years in, I know it was the right decision, although estrangement does make things extra tricky.


My dad has been in the middle of it all. But I have never heard a single word of defence from him.

For some time, I had a lot of frustration towards my dad for his role in this all - wishing that he, as the parent and adult, would have stepped in. Slowly, we've managed to get back to a better place. 

But it still proves incredibly difficult, and I often feel like I'm walking on eggshells.

I don't mention her. Neither does he. We don't talk about my step-sibling either.

Dad and I only meet outside of his home - we go for a swim together, a bite to eat, a walk, a road trip. I will never step foot inside his home if she is there, her rules. 

There have been funerals we've all had to attend, both my stepmother and I very expertly managing to avoid one another completely. I can imagine it's even harder for everyone around us who watches on, who have their own personal feelings about the estrangement and the complexities that surround it.

But the time when it rears its ugly head the most is at Christmas.

I used to love spending part of Christmas with my dad's family, after spending the morning at my mum's.

At Dad's place, there would be cousins, uncles, and often a close family friend or two. My great aunts would also sometimes be there, which was particularly special as they'd fly in from overseas.

I still smile to myself when reflecting on those memories, most of which happened when I was a teen. Now in my mid-20s, it feels devastatingly far away, because given the Christmas occasion is spent at dad's place, it automatically means I am below on the totem pole of priority. It's her over me. It's her house. She wins.


When you cut a family member out of your life, many describe it as one of the most emotionally complicated feelings ever felt. A pull between the head and the heart.

Fortunately in my position, there isn't a blood tie or a significant number of time and memories between my stepmother and I. It made the cut far easier. But there's nothing simple about the process. It's messy. 

For my dad's family, they now have to walk a fine line between being supportive of me, but not wanting to create further distance between themselves and my dad. And you betcha the hardest time of the year is when Santa comes knocking...

The pang of distance comes at odd times for me throughout December.

When people in your workplace ask you what you're doing for Christmas, and you try to put on a brave "it's all good" face. When the ads on TV, predominantly the supermarket giant ones, show families coming together, holding seafood platters and wearing paper crown hats. These actors always have the biggest smile plastered on their carbon copy faces. Even when you start to plan your own Christmas day, you find a part of you feels missing. 

The images we see of Christmas, both in popular culture but also around us and on social media, are pretty idyllic.

It's branded as the time for family and togetherness, religion aside. It's an opportunity for the whole brood to come together, wear matching festive pyjamas, have long summer BBQs and take perfectly imperfect group photos. 


Yet for many of us, that is an unachievable mirage that feels completely out of reach. 

One of the hardest aspects of this all is when you've previously had this sort of magical festive Christmas, surrounded by a dozen-or-so family members. Then when it's ripped out of your hands, and once you've had a taste of what it can be, the loneliness starts to kick in.

Or at least it does for me. 

But I don't want this to be a pity party, nor is it really the worst thing to ever happen in the grand scheme of the world right now. I just hope that by talking about the other side of estrangement, that someone out there resonates and feels seen.

What brings me joy around the festive season is different now. It's the small things.

Spending quality time with my mum, going to the beach, reading from an assortment of iconic summer books. It's spending a whole day making a pavlova, or dressing my dog up in the ugliest possible Christmas costume. 

I take comfort in the family I still have around me, and for my friends who message me a little more often than usual around this time of year.

I'm still searching for that familial Christmas spirit I had all those years ago, and I hope one day I find it again. But even amid the deep chasm that exists in my family tree, I know I have a lot to be grateful for - and that includes being estranged from my stepmother. 

Feature Image: Getty