Do you ever find yourself dreading an upcoming holiday? Or maybe on holidays it seems everyone around you is celebrating, playing and having a wonderful time, and you think, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I feel happy, why don’t I deserve to have fun and celebrate?”. You are not alone. This is a common experience for all walks of life and abuse survivors in particular.

Holidays can be hard when you have been abused. During my marriage, every holiday was filled with stress and fear. My kids and I knew he hated holidays and we were walking on eggshells, knowing he could blow at any time. And he always did. The times he actually bought me a gift for Mother’s day or my birthday or Christmas I was yelled at and told how ridiculous I was for wanting a gift and how expensive I was. The message was clear that I wasn’t worth the “trouble” I caused him.

When I tried to make any holiday special I was always told, the food I made wasn’t good enough, he was too tired to celebrate, or he was so unkind and angry I was afraid to do too much. Most of the time when I wanted to relax and play he said we didn’t have the money to do anything, or we had too much work to get done.

The truth is he never enjoyed time with us and he just didn’t want to. All of these behaviors are tools an abuser uses to maintain control. If I tried to celebrate without him or just relax…LOOK OUT! Eventually the stress and fear got so bad I just stopped trying. Thank goodness for divorce!

What to do about it

I teach, and I know that we choose our thoughts and what we focus on is how we feel. I also know as an abuse survivor that triggers are real. No matter how many good thoughts I think I can still have triggers.

Holidays seem to hit those triggers for me. I am learning to recognize them and turn them around. I have chosen to make new memories on holidays. Memories I choose! I am choosing to plan fun activities with people I love and trust. I am choosing to make holidays fun again and something to look forward to.

If you sometimes struggle with holidays make new plans. Be creative. Ask your friends for ideas or if they have traditions they love to do and implement them into your plans. Consider taking a small trip, go somewhere you have never been before, see new things. Or cook a new type of food you have never tried before. Maybe you could invite friends over to relax with you. Anything that you choose that brings you joy and happiness. Making new memories with holidays is the key to changing your experience with them.

Here’s to happy holidays, my friend. You can do this!

What do you do to make holidays easier? Tell me about it in the comments!

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