How to Navigate the Holidays as a Survivor

The holiday season, though often associated with joy and celebration, can pose unique challenges for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. For some survivors, the holidays represent the frightening possibility of being in the same room as the person who abused them. Navigating family gatherings, festivities, and potential triggers may seem daunting, but with proactive strategies and a supportive mindset, survivors can not only endure but find empowerment and resilience during this time.

1. Create a Support System:

Managing triggers becomes more manageable when you have a reliable support system. Whether it’s a friend or family member attending the same event or a therapist available through a call or text, identifying safe and supportive individuals is crucial. Reach out and communicate your needs, whether that’s simply having someone to listen or help ground you in overwhelming moments.

2. Establish Boundaries:

Open communication about comfort levels is key to creating a safe space during the holidays. Expressing boundaries empowers survivors to prioritize their well-being and regain a sense of control. Communicate with loved ones, saying, “I appreciate your understanding as I prioritize my well-being during the holidays. Your support in respecting these boundaries means a lot to me and helps create a safer space for everyone.”

3. Plan a Response to Questions:

When faced with conversations about your survivorship, remember that you are in control of your narrative. Prepare responses in advance, like, “I appreciate your concern, and I’ve been working on my healing in my own way. Let’s focus on [shift the topic to something else] if that’s okay.”

4. Schedule Self-Care:

Proactively schedule self-care activities to navigate potential stress and triggers. Engage in activities like me-time, creative outlets, mindfulness practices, physical activities, and digital detoxes. Connecting with supportive people and establishing personal holiday rituals contribute to a more serene and empowering experience.

5. Reflect and Affirm:

Acknowledge personal growth and achievements, finding empowerment in reflection. Positive affirmations become anchors in challenging moments. Repeat, “I am resilient and deserving of love and respect. My healing journey is a testament to my strength, and I actively create a future filled with joy and positive connections.”

6. Develop an Exit Plan:

An exit plan provides a proactive strategy for managing overwhelming situations. Pre-plan a discreet way to exit, such as having a trusted friend or family member available for quick support. Effective communication ensures a smoother execution, prioritizing the survivor’s mental and emotional well-being.

7. Connect with Other Survivors:

Reaching out to fellow survivors provides a unique source of understanding and support. Join survivor communities or support groups to foster solidarity and exchange coping strategies. Connecting with those on similar journeys serves as a valuable reminder that you are not alone, contributing to a supportive network that understands the challenges of healing.

8. Reach Out for Help:

Remember that asking for help is a strength. Reach out to RAINN at 800.656.HOPE or online.rainn.org, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Find additional resources for survivors and allies at www.risenow.us/resources or explore participating Survivor Safe Havens near you.

Navigating the holidays as a survivor requires a combination of self-care, proactive planning, and connection with supportive networks. By prioritizing well-being, setting boundaries, and connecting with others who understand the journey, survivors can reclaim agency during the festive season. Remember, your strength and resilience are guiding lights, and you have the power to shape a holiday experience that aligns with your healing journey.

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