The holidays are often a complex time for many people. On the one hand, there is a sense of joy in the air, while on the other hand, sorrow and grief because of either a loss or dysfunctional family dynamic.
The following are some ways you can deal with family trauma around the holidays.
Have an Escape Plan
It’s important to not isolate over the holidays. Being around loved ones who support and care for you can be a comfort. Having said that, you’ll also want to have a plan that will allow you to get away from crowds and holiday festivities when you feel yourself become triggered or emotional. This may mean you drive separately to an event so you can leave when YOU want and need. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and stick to them.
Feel Your Feelings
The holidays mean everyone is supposed to ‘put on a good face’ and act merry and jolly, right? No. It’s important to really feel your feelings, not ignore them or pretend they don’t exist. We can only heal from trauma by facing the full extent of our darkness. If you had plans to spend time with loved ones but suddenly feel angry, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, do not deny these feelings and try to put on a good face so others have a good time. It’s better to gracefully bow out of the plans and be 100% genuine with your feelings.
Make Self-Care a Priority
When we relive our trauma and deal with big emotions, it’s easy to let self-care slip and eat poorly, drink too much and get far too little sleep. Dealing with trauma takes energy and mental clarity, and that will require you to treat your heart, mind, AND body with gentleness and care.
You may also want to speak with someone during this time. A therapist can help you navigate your feelings and offer coping strategies. If you’d like to explore treatment options, please feel free to reach out to me.
Chelsy A. Castro, JD, MA, AM, LCSW