The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be fun. Yet, for survivors, it can cause overwhelming emotions and triggering moments. In addition, holidays can complicate family gatherings, especially if your family is somehow tied to your abuse.
It could be that they didn't stop it, denied the abuse ever happened, didn't support you when you told, or supported the perpetrator by their silence. Then there's the scary possibility of being in the same room as the person who abused you.
So as a survivor, how do you handle the holidays?
Trust your gut. Determine what feels good for you. If it doesn't feel right, listen to it and respond accordingly. You are not obligated to attend family gatherings at the expense of your own well-being.
Have a plan. If you choose to spend the holidays with your family, set your boundaries ahead of time. Practice saying them out loud.
Be realistic with yourself about how much you can tolerate. Plan your exit strategy ahead of time. So if things go south, you can get up and leave the situation.
Manage your expectations. Instead of fairytale, thinking that this time with your family will be fine when no one has changed, set realistic expectations. Otherwise, you will set yourself up for disappointment.
This year may be different. You might need to do something altogether new, especially if you lost a loved one.
Make space for your emotions. Instead of suppressing your feelings, embrace them. Feel your feelings and release the hurt. It's an opportunity to validate your experience of harm and grief.
Identify people who can help. If things get too overwhelming, have someone you can text or call for support. Reach out to them before attending the family gathering to let them know you might need some emotional support.
Create a new tradition. If dinner with your family ruins your holiday do you really need to go through with it? Can you celebrate with friends instead? Being around those who love and care about you can help lift your spirits.
You may not have the physical or mental energy to write the cards, cook the big holiday dinner, string the lights, and that's ok.
Ask yourself how you want to feel this holiday. Then, pick a couple of things that you love and let the rest go.