The holidays can be a difficult time for survivors of domestic violence and may carry extra risk for those still in violent relationships.
For some, the holidays can become a "honeymoon period" where the victim works very hard to keep the family happy. It can work well for a bit, but tensions build and the family begins to find themselves walking on eggshells.
Holiday spending can cause added stress and holiday gatherings tend to include alcohol, which can lower inhibitions and increase the risk of violence.
Have a Holiday Safety Plan
Try to keep spending to a bare minimum. Keep cell phone charged and on you at all times. Keep car keys on you at all times. Have car parked so that you can leave (are not blocked in and cannot be blocked). Have an extra bag of clothes for you and the kids at a friends house to grab or in your car. Keep medications in your purse and keep purse near an exit. Stay away from kitchens and bathrooms when arguing starts. Teach your children a safe word that tells them to get to the car or a neighbors house when you say it.
Coping with Past Trauma during the Holidays
If you do not have a counselor, call the Family Justice Center to get a referral and to learn about our free support groups.
For a holistic approach, consider some of these tips: Yoga is an excellent exercise method and grounding tool. If you feel yoga is too much for you, try Tai Chi for similar calming results. Go to a place that sells essential oils, smell a few until you find one that resonates for you. You may need to put it on your skin to get the real scent. A good guide for scents is that Citrus oils lift your mood, Spicy (like clove, cinnamon) oils tend to inspire us, Grass and herb oils tend to help us be more forgiving and less bitter, Tree based oils help us to grieve and to let go of shame, flower based oils help us to let go of fear and pain, and finally, Mint based oils help to reduce anxiety and help us focus. You can purchase a diffuser to have the scent in your space, you can put it on your wrists/palms/soles of your feet to get into your body. You can place it on the back of your neck to help with headaches (Peppermint is especially helpful with this). There are many ways to work with oils but the key is that for a person with trauma, scents are integral to reaching the limbic system of the brain and helping to heal. Essential oils are one of the best ways to do this.
Spending time with friends who cause you to feel good about yourself is one of the best ways to help heal. The key is finding those who lift you up.