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Navigating Family Trauma During the Holidays

In the first part of this series, we explored the complex emotional landscape of the holiday season for those dealing with family trauma, and the importance of having an escape plan, acknowledging your feelings, and prioritizing self-care. As we continue, we will delve into additional strategies that can help in creating a more balanced and fulfilling holiday experience, despite the challenges posed by past trauma.

 Building a Support Network

One of the most powerful tools in dealing with family trauma during the holidays is cultivating a strong support network. This network can include friends, family members, colleagues, or even support groups who understand and empathize with your situation. The key is to have individuals who can offer a listening ear, understanding, and emotional support when you need it most.

To build and utilize your support network effectively:

  • Identify key individuals. Think about the people in your life who have been supportive and understanding. These are the individuals you want in your network.

  • Communicate openly. Be honest with them about your feelings and what you might need during the holidays.

  • Plan joint activities. Consider planning holiday activities with these individuals, providing an alternative to potentially stressful family gatherings.

Setting Realistic Expectations

The holidays are often idealized in media and culture, creating unrealistic expectations for joy and familial harmony. This can be especially difficult for those dealing with family trauma. It's important to set realistic expectations for yourself and the holiday season. Not every moment needs to be perfect, and it's okay if your holiday experience doesn't match the idealized version.


  • Being honest with yourself. Acknowledge what you realistically can and cannot handle.

  • Communicating with your family. If you’re comfortable, communicate your feelings and boundaries to family members.

  • Adjusting your traditions. Be open to modifying or creating new traditions that are more aligned with your current emotional needs.


Grief and Trauma Therapy at Creating Space Therapy in-person in Batavia and online in Illinois.
Facing holiday challenges with family trauma isn't easy. Remember, it's okay to set your own pace and seek comfort in your choices.

Practicing Gratitude

In the midst of dealing with trauma, practicing gratitude can be a powerful tool. It helps shift focus from the negative to appreciating the positives in life, no matter how small. This doesn't mean ignoring your pain but rather balancing your perspective.

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write down a few things you are grateful for each day.

  • Share your gratitude with others. Expressing gratitude to others can strengthen relationships and improve your mood.

 Embracing New Traditions

Creating new traditions can be a therapeutic way of reclaiming the holiday season. These traditions can be simple or elaborate, but the key is that they bring you joy and comfort.

Ideas for new traditions:

  • Volunteer. Giving back to the community can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

  • Plan a trip. If the traditional holiday setting is too painful, consider going on a trip during the holiday season.

  • Create a self-care ritual. Design a ritual that you can look forward to each year, like a spa day or reading a new book.

The Power of Saying No

Learning to say no is a critical aspect of managing holiday stress and trauma. You are not obligated to attend every event or meet every expectation. Prioritizing your mental health may require turning down invitations or stepping away from certain traditions.

  • Practice assertive communication. Communicate your decisions respectfully but firmly.

  • Don’t over explain. You don’t owe anyone an elaborate explanation for your choices.

In closing, remember that dealing with family trauma during the holidays is a deeply personal experience. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to find what works best for you, whether it's establishing new traditions, leaning on your support network, or seeking professional help. The holiday season, despite its challenges, can also be a time for healing, growth, and new beginnings.

Seeking Professional Help

The holiday season can be a turning point in your journey of healing from family trauma. It's a time to not only face challenges but also to embrace the possibility of change and growth. If you feel that this is the moment to seek professional support, please visit Creating Space Therapy and schedule a consultation with Shannon Woods. Shannon's experience and empathetic approach can offer you the guidance and understanding you need to navigate this complex season. Take this opportunity to transform your holiday experience into one of healing and hope. Your path to a more peaceful holiday begins here.



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