It’s that time of year again: rushing around, buying presents, parties, trying not to blow a diet, and spending time with family. However, after an assault it can be tough to be around family and friends. Holiday reunions can be reminders of life before the assault or a time when a person struggles to express their stress if family members aren’t aware of the assault.
According to Dr. Glenn Schiraldi the following six steps can return a survivors’ relationships to being their safety net. Number one is to accept one’s fears. This could mean a survivor no longer denying that they are terrified about their family members finding out about the assault; not necessarily telling them, but acknowledging the fear of their knowing. The next step is to replace those ideas that block close relationships. This could be the thoughts such as “they don’t know the real ‘me’ anymore.” Survivors should actively reassure themselves that their families love them regardless and know who they really are, even if they don’t know everything we’ve been through. The third step is to retrain yourself on communication skills if they have been damaged; this could mean standing up for one’s self or expressing affection. The fourth step is to gradually practice trusting others again. An example for this would be for a person who was assaulted by someone they trusted and now have lost faith in all people who have been given their trust. Allow a person into your world for a bit; maybe let your favorite aunt know about that spelling test you cheated on in elementary school and see if she tells mom. Next; step back and notice how family and friends handle conflicts and stress. Never doubt that loved ones can’t handle stress from our lives even though we watch them cram 15 kin into a 3 bedroom house and still love eachother by New Years. Lastly, consider picking up where things were left before the trauma. Take this moment to ponder how the relationships truly were before and where they should be. Survivors should envision how their close, intimate relationships should look like and begin working towards that goal.
Holidays bring enough stress, but compounding it with the stress that trauma can bring may seem overwhelming. However, they can also be a wonderful opportunity to show us again who matters in life and a strong sense of new opportunities in the new year.