DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married eight years and have 6- and 7-year-old sons. We got married when we were in our 40s and, with the exception of my father, our parents have either passed away or are in extremely poor health. I have always longed for close family relationships. My brother has always had "issues" that made him difficult to deal with. We have been estranged for virtually the entire time I have been married. I was hoping to have a close relationship with my husband's side of the family. However, his sister is difficult at best, his brother is an ex-con who is busy chasing every waitress between Denver and Kansas City, and my husband's nephew (who has children roughly our kids' ages) cheated my husband in a business deal and he and his wife won't have anything to do with us. I have reached out to each of these people numerous times in the past several years and not one of them will extend a hand back. Holidays are tough for me as I feel the loss of family. How can I move on and quit feeling so bad about this situation?
DEAR LONELY: There is no magic antidote for the holiday blues. However, I hope it helps somewhat to know that many families are complicated by estrangement, loss, illness and the presence of skirt-chasing ex-cons. It's not just you.
If it makes you feel better to continue to try to connect with family members who don't reciprocate, then keep trying. However, keep your expectations realistic -- and try to reach out in other directions.
"Family" is not a status confined to those who share your DNA. "Family" are also the people who pick up your call on the first ring, put on a pot of coffee when you drop in, easily forgive your transgressions, laugh with you, cry alongside you, and -- importantly -- love your kids along with you. Do you have friends who fall into this category? If so, maybe you can create some new traditions, or at the very least take comfort in a new perspective.