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The Power in Found Family During Thanksgiving

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For many, myself included, Thanksgiving can be triggering.  Sometimes having to see certain people can be stress inducing, which makes me thankful for what I call my “found family.” My found family includes only a few people who are very important to me, some of which are blood related, but most of which are not, and we support each other through thick and thin. They are people who I have known for a large majority of my life, and even though most of us are not biologically related, I consider them to be my soulmates.

Whereas many of my biological family members do not understand my mental illnesses very well, I can talk to anyone in my found family in depth about what I am experiencing, and they are there to listen and support, and vice versa. We do not keep anything from each other, and we make it possible for anyone to talk about anything that they need to talk about without judgment. I never feel ashamed around them, and I am there for whatever they may need. We are there for each other through thick and thin, and I would not trade them for the world.

Sometimes Thanksgiving can be very triggering if you have trauma that is connected to anyone in your blood family, which I do, or if you have been taught that you are obligated to love everyone in your blood family, even if they are hazardous to your mental or physical health. We live in a culture where we are taught to love everyone in our family, regardless of how they act or treat us, but times are changing. The concept of a found family is growing and many of us are choosing to be around those who love and uplift us, rather than suffering through get togethers that may be dangerous for our wellbeing.

For me, my found family has helped me to understand that I get to choose who gets to be in my life, and that I do not have to put up with harmful treatment from others. It has helped me to understand that anyone can be included in my found family — blood related, and non-blood related alike — as long as they provide comfort and support, and we have a healthy relationship. My found family has taught me how to set boundaries to ensure my own wellbeing, while also teaching me how to enjoy thanksgiving again.

We all have the right to feel safe, comforted, and happy this holiday season — especially during Thanksgiving, which can be an overwhelming holiday in itself — and you deserve to get to choose who you spend your precious time with. Having a found family can completely change how you view the holidays.

I used to feel guilty for not wanting to be around certain people during Thanksgiving, and the holidays, who are very triggering for me due to trauma and my mental health, but through therapy I have learned that I get to choose who I want to be in my life. I am not obligated to invite anyone in who disrespects me or makes me feel lesser, and this alone has changed how I view the holidays. Thanksgiving is triggering for me due to my eating disorder and the focus being on food. But having a found family helps me to put the focus on them while allowing myself to verbalize what I am experiencing around the food because my found family understands my eating disorder and how it affects me.  I never feel like I have to hide anything around them, and I come out of Thanksgiving and the holidays feeling refreshed, rather than beaten down.

You deserve to have a happy holiday season, and that includes choosing who you want to be around. You are not obligated to be around anyone who disrespects you or makes you feel lesser, and I hope that you are able to choose your found family this Thanksgiving and spend a wonderful holiday with them. We all deserve to enjoy the holidays while feeling safe and sound, and having a found family may be the answer to a more positive holiday season.

Getty image by Maskot

Originally published: November 22, 2021
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