The Holidays Are Filled With Traditions, But Domestic Abuse Should Not Be One Of Them

Sometimes the best gifts you can give to a victim-survivor or someone in an abusive relationship is listening with compassion and offering support.

Holidays can have such a mix of emotions and challenges to navigate in general, but when you are in an abusive relationship these can take on a whole new meaning and challenge. Most holidays revolve around traditions and norms. Understanding that your loved ones may be struggling with situations that are out of their control can be critical to supporting someone who may be in an abusive relationship. Some victims may have spoken to only certain people about their situation so being respectful of their stories is extremely important. It can be beneficial to acknowledge that you see them struggling and want to support them but doing this in a respectful manner is important. If possible, this should be a private conversation with just them. Individuals want to know that you acknowledge them, but are not always asking you to “do” something. Some helpful tips:

– Respect your loved one’s boundaries; they may not always want to participate in some activities if the person who uses abuse is attending.

– Help them to create new holiday traditions and memories that do not include the person who uses abuse.

– Encourage them to care for themselves to help avoid isolation and depression – this is a stressful time.

– Please never ask your family member to choose between you and their partner. Not everyone gets along and you may not want to abusive partner to come to the gathering, but this can cause greater barriers. Although you may not like this person because of their abusive behaviors, you can tolerate them for your loved one to make sure they know you support them. At minimum you know they are safe in your home during this time, especially if they have children. The children will also feel safe at this time and know their family is there to support.

If you are the person in the toxic relationship it’s also crucial to talk about how you may navigate your way through these difficult days. It’s not abnormal that these are difficult days due to the memories, reminders and the grief you may be feeling. Remember you are not alone. If you are not finding the support you need among family or friends please do not hesitate to reach out to Harbor House. Some other helpful tips may be:

– Take small moments to yourself. These are difficult times and it’s ok that it feels that way, you are human! Practice things like exercising, napping, journaling, calling a support person or grabbing your favorite drink at a coffee shop.

– Set up an appointment to speak with an advocate. Have a proactive plan for how you may plan for physical and emotional safety during the holidays. You are also welcome to call the crisis line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

– Join support groups to learn and share other ways of navigating during the holidays.