This time of the year can be difficult for those living with trauma or grief and loss. We are bombarded by media with holiday messages of celebration and togetherness, but if you don’t share this feeling, it can be painful and lonely. Grief can feel unbearable. You may also feel a sense of shame. Do you hear yourself saying…
“why can’t I feel what everyone else is feeling? Is there something wrong with me?”
If you have, you are not alone. For those living with childhood or generational traumas or those who have lost loved ones, going home to a house of relatives can be a minefield of triggers, painful memories, feelings of grief, and crossed boundaries. Here are a few tips to navigate these difficult times.
Define your support network
Surviving trauma can leave you with feelings of being alone or unsafe. Making meaningful connections with others is some of the best ways to address these feelings. If you have a member of your family or community that you have a close connection with, ask them for some support during this time. If they aren’t already aware of your experiences, then tell them as much as you feel comfortable with and directly ask them to be someone for you to rely on during the holidays. Sometimes feeling like just one person is on your side can make a world of difference.
Have a plan
If you find yourself catastrophizing about what could happen over this time, then it may be a good idea to sit down and make a concrete plan for what to do if these situations arise. Decide who you will speak to, where you will go for space, or even what you will say if certain topics arise. Having a plan in place for certain scenarios can give you reassurance in the face of uncertainty. It can also be incredibly empowering to look out for yourself.
Assert your needs
For anyone to have good relationships, there needs to be open and honest communication. For this reason, being clear about your needs and your boundaries is vital for your healing and ability to maintain healthy relationships. If you need to have some space during the day, let it be known. If you need a certain topic to not be discussed – then ask for it. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable, but it will pay off. Remember, you don’t need anyone’s permission to ask for safety, it is your need and right.
Don’t feel guilty if you need to cancel
For some, the thought of family events can be too overwhelming and do more damage than it is worth. If this is the case, it is OK to put yourself first and call it off.
If you or someone you know is experiencing dread about the upcoming holidays, reach out today. We are ready when you are.
About the Author
Katie Bohn, LPC, SEP, BC-DMT is a trauma therapist in St. Louis, MO. She supporting adults with childhood trauma and loss to find a sense of vitality and peace in their lives. She works with the mind-body connection through somatic experiencing and dance/movement therapy.