Child Abuse Recovery Journal

The new home of Suite101's Child Abuse & Recovery Feature Writer, Susan Maree Jeavons. Susan is a child abuse survivor who provides articles, commentary, poetry, support, and information on topics related to child abuse.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Surviving The Holidays, A Child Abuse Survivors Guide

The holidays are fast approaching. With that comes family get-togethers. For some child abuse survivors in recovery, that in itself, can be a traumatic event. Facing and coping with those who may have been the ones who abused us, can be very emotional and even triggering.

If you are a child abuse survivor who still associates with family members who abused you, you may be fighting an up hill battle to recovery. Putting yourself in these highly stressful situations, can only serve one purpose, pleasing your abuser. This may not be a conscious choice, but unconsciously, you are still attempting to gain approval or love from your abuser, which is only natural if the abuser was a parent or loved one.

Breaking family holiday traditions is not an easy choice to make. More than likely, we all have a few good memories of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas celebrations with family members. The song lyrics that begin with, "Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go," may stir a bit of nostalgia in all of us. But for some of us, that house may be a place that haunts us. It may be a place that brings back memories that we would rather forget.

You do not have to maintain a false front to please those who abused you. You are under no obligation to attend family functions, if that family is responsible for your abuse. If doing so fills you with stress and trepidation, why put yourself through that?

One way that survivors can cope with the approaching holidays, is to start new traditions, or observe old ones in their own homes. Whether you are single, or have a husband and children, you can start your own holiday rituals.
Here are ideas for creating holiday traditions in your own home:

  • Visit a tree farm and cut your own holiday tree.
  • Make hot cocoa with marshmallows to enjoy as you and your family trim the tree.
  • Make handmade decorations for the tree.
  • Take a family portrait to send as holiday greetings.
  • Go caroling with your family and friends.
  • Invite friends to a covered dish holiday dinner, and ask them to bring their favorite holiday dish or dessert to share. You provide the main course.
  • Have a gift exchange with friends.
  • Invite neighborhood kids over to help bake holiday cookies.

Starting your own holiday traditions can alleviate some of the loss you may feel when you choose to decline the invitation to celebrate the holidays with your other family. However, if you still feel an obligation to your extended family, send them a nice card and gift, with a note that you will not be attending the family celebration, explaining that this year, you will be celebrating the holidays with your own family. If you feel obligated to explain further, simply be honest, but without being rude. Like this:

"We wish the family a happy holiday, but will not be attending the family celebration this year. To alleviate the anxiety that I experience during the holidays, we will be celebrating them in our own home this year."

There is no need for any further explanation.

If you have already made the decision to decline the invitation to celebrate the holidays with your abusive family, let us know how your holidays went, and how it affected you emotionally to do so. Did you feel a sense of loss? Or did you feel relieved, and even happier? Either way, I hope that the holidays with your family will be a time of love and inner peace for you.

Happy Holidays!

Susan Maree Jeavons