Holidays and Heartache: Finding Support after Trauma

Man standing in snowThe holiday season means hearing songs with lyrics like “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and “Joy to the world.” To people who struggle with memories of abusive relationships, this time of year can be far from wonderful or joyful. The holidays can trigger unhappy memories, even traumatic experiences. Instead of experiencing family togetherness, there’s loneliness, anxiety and depression. If you are one of those people whose heart aches from abusive relationships, here are some suggestions to help yourself during the holiday season.Take control of how you want to spend the holidays. Now is not the time to subject yourself to holiday experiences you hate. Spend time with people who are supportive and kind to you. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to decipher who is supportive to you:

~How do you feel when you are with this person?

~Do you feel any tension in your body when you spend time with this person?

~How is your mood when you are with this person?

~How do you feel about yourself when you’re in this person’s company?

If you experience negative feelings, experience tension in your body when you’re with someone, and feel poorly about yourself, this is not a supportive person! Find someone you feel comfortable around and whose company helps you feel better about yourself.

Invite yourself to a gathering hosted by someone you feel good being around, someone you know will welcome you with open arms. There’s no law that says you have to spend holidays with unsupportive family. If there’s no one in your life that you feel good around, don’t fret. There’s you!  Spend a night alone pampering yourself. It’s o.k. to be sad if you need to. You may want to light a candle, feed yourself comfort foods, journal your feelings, or cuddle under the warm covers watching old movies. Or, you can empower yourself to start a new holiday ritual. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, ask a neighbor to go Christmas caroling down your block, write thank you notes or emails to everyone who has been helpful, generous or kind throughout the year. Make angels in the snow: use your creativity to find an activity that feels good.

If you don’t have the energy to make use of any of the above suggestions or you’re experiencing extreme depression, it’s time to ask for help. Not every holiday is a happy one, but if you try any of the above suggestions, you can have a peaceful one.  May your holidays be the beginning of a healing journey and I wish you a blessed new year.

© Copyright 2010 by Felice Block, MA, LCPC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • RT

    December 21st, 2010 at 3:06 AM

    Thanks a million for this article! This just reminded me of a friend who got divorced last December and it must be really hard for her to cope with all the festivities this December.

    I am going to invite her to have a good time with me and my family, because she stays away from her parents.

  • Kristen

    December 21st, 2010 at 5:32 AM

    Notice to haters- stay away from me this Christmas!

  • Jonas

    December 21st, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    Things that happen at a time that is easier to remember and recall, whether something good or bad or anything. But the same doesn’t. They are now asking the central matchbox .

  • TED

    December 23rd, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    Something bad happening during the holiday season can ruin quite a few holiday seasons for the person.Has happened to one of my friends and even i feel bad about it.

  • Ash

    December 23rd, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    Thanks very much for those questions there, Felice! That was a revelation indeed. I did a mental rundown of two old and one new friend who have all asked me to come by on Christmas Day and I know now who I’ll be spending the most time with. Old friends I see aren’t always the best friends a guy could have.

  • Pauline

    December 24th, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    You know deep down inside which friends are real ones and the ones who leave you feeling empty. Maybe this is a good time of year to take inventory of that and start over for the new year!

  • Jodie

    December 24th, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    I dread the holidays every year because they remind me of how miserable our childhood family Christmases were and to a large extent still are when we all get together. You’re right, Felice. I don’t need to be around anyone but myself to be happy. That’s how I like the rest of the year, so why should I do anything different just because of a date on the calendar? Thanks for the help.

  • runninfast

    December 26th, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Well now that they are over maybe everyone who had a horrible holiday season can relax and know that another year has come and gone and they have a lot more time to work it out before the next holiday season rolls around!

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