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4 Ways I Get Through the Holidays as Someone Who Experienced Childhood Trauma

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The holidays can ignite a tornado of feelings within me. One day, I’m delighting in its wondrous array of sounds, smells and textures. The next, I’m under my dining room table curled up in a ball reminding myself to breathe.

As the holidays approach, I’m feeling a lot of yearning and the person I long for most is my mother.

This is a tricky situation. My mother contributed a lot of pain and trauma to my growing up years. Through ongoing therapy, my counselor helped me discover that my mother displayed many narcissistic tendencies in her behavior and as a result, I became codependent.

It took some time and a lot of hard work, but I learned to take care of myself the way I always wished my mother had taken care of me. One of the ways I did this was the decision to have no contact with her. This was not easy. It still isn’t. I second-guess myself frequently, but know in my heart that it is the right decision for me.

I was angry as hell at my mother for many years. As I worked with it over time, though, I noticed the anger loosening its grip on me. It dissipated and underneath was a pile of good memories I had forgotten about.

I began to invite these good memories to come forth. In some ways, they hurt even more than the traumatic ones because I knew I couldn’t have a relationship with my mother. Some days they were too much because I didn’t know how to be with them.

I want to remember the good things about my mother, especially at the holidays. So I started brainstorming ideas for rituals that might help me to achieve this goal. Creating ritual in my life feels like giving myself the warmest hug I’ve ever received.

I hope that these suggestions can help you add a little extra joy, and relieve some pain, this holiday season. Some of these might seem like I’m “reaching” a little. I am. But sometimes you have to dig down deep to get to the buried treasure.

1. Create an advent memory book and look at it during the advent season.

My family loves advent calendars. Sure, it’s mostly about the chocolate, but we also love the ritual of coming together every evening after dinner for a few moments of shared peace and enjoyment. Consider making a photo book with short memories of the person you are yearning for. If you don’t have enough memories to fill 24 pages (I’m struggling with that myself), add in pictures that evoke warmth as well. I’m putting mostly pictures in mine.

2. Find something tangible to place in your surroundings that spark a good memory about this person.

My mother loves eating the drugstore chocolate-covered cherries at the holidays. I don’t even eat them, but I buy a box and sit it on my shelf to remind me of that good memory.

3. Incorporate one of your person’s simple traditions into your holiday traditions.

Growing up, every single holiday my mom would watch the “Kenny and Dolly” Christmas special on TV. It had a soundtrack, and I listen to it every holiday season. A nice new tradition that came of this is that it’s my daughter’s favorite holiday CD and we listen to it and sing it together. This connection with my daughter has healed some of the disconnection with my mother.

4. Set positive intentions for your person.

One of the most therapeutic practices in my healing journey has been learning to set positive intentions. I try to do this every day during my quiet time, but especially during the holidays. I send my mother the warmest, most loving positive energy I can muster. I wish her safety, I wish her love, I wish her peace.

I am wishing that your holiday season be filled with the same.

Unsplash photo via Rawpixel

Originally published: February 27, 2018
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