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's somehow tied to your abuse.
Perhaps, 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 harmed 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 well-being.
Have a plan. If you choose to spend the holidays with your family, it helps to set healthy boundaries before you go. First, reflect on your reasons, then practice saying them out loud or with a friend. That way, it's not the first time it rolls off your tongue––this is one way to practice courage.
Be realistic with yourself about how much you can tolerate. Plan your exit strategy ahead of time. So if things go south, you can 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.
If circumstances are different this year, try something new, especially if you have 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 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, or string the lights, and that's ok.
Ask yourself how you want to feel this holiday. Then, pick some things you love and let the rest go.