This year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there's a lot more attention to the fact that the holidays can be very challenging for many people, whether it's due to being apart from loved ones, financial challenges, sickness, or grief and losses.
The holidays can be un-merry in any year, though, and that can be especially true for survivors of abusive relationships. Every survivor has a unique set of experiences that can lead to added challenges around the holidays, but a few examples of common experiences are listed below:
First, the holidays could be a trigger for memories of incidents of abuse that occurred around holidays in previous years. It may be easy to put memories of these incidents out of mind in other seasons of the year, but certain events, decorations, music, or other holiday-related reminders can bring memories right back to the surface. For example, if your abuser was angry and violent last year when you were putting out holiday decorations, it's understandable if decorating this year brings those memories back, even if you hadn't thought about that incident in a long time.
Second, the holidays can involve time away from your children if your abuser has custody rights. The holidays can be very difficult for survivors who are parenting minor children but don't have full custody or if their abuser gets time together with the children during the holidays. It can be very lonely to be apart from your children during the holidays, and it's also natural to feel angry if your abuser gets to spend those holidays with your children.
And third, the holidays can bring up feelings of sadness around unmet expectations or disappointment about your life not turning out how you thought it would. For example, you probably had hopes and dreams for your relationship or what your future would be like with your partner. Perhaps celebrating holidays together and building holiday traditions together were a part of those dreams. When the holidays come around, it can be tempting to compare your experiences with those of others, such as when you see pictures of friends in happy relationships on social media.
If you're currently facing a holiday season that doesn't seem very merry, consider how you can take intentional steps to cope with your feelings and practice self-care. A few examples of steps you can take include the following:
For some additional suggestions about navigating the holidays as a survivor of abuse, check out these two archived See the Triumph blog posts as well: