Navigating trauma during the holidays can be tough. Imagine for instance you have been removed from your home and family. Despite what occurred for you to be removed you still miss, love, and long to be together again…this is foster care…this is the struggle we face when we have been removed from our family origin. No matter how much chaos, abuse, and pain we suffered, we miss it…SO it’s no surprise that the holidays may bring about some feelings of sadness, depression, anger, irritability, and the need to feel in control.
You may be thinking hmm I do feel this way, or that you may know a loved one who has these feelings throughout the months of October-January. We may have thought it was due to the excitement of the holiday, or just plain feeling overexerted. I am here to provide some tried and true tips to support people who are having some overpowering feelings during the holidays.
1. Be Curious
First, notice the signs as listed there are some clear emotional expressions that many would focus on and comment on the behavior. I want to encourage us all to focus on the feelings behind the behavior, to be CURIOUS. Ask open-ended questions, do not judge, and try to avoid providing temporary advice for relief.
2. Create a Space Safe
Let ourselves and those we love to feel what we are feeling. So often we mean well by saying let’s focus on something else for a while, but what this does is just “stuff’s” these feelings that will eventually explode out when we least expect it. So, let’s create safety to feel what we need to do during the holidays.
3. Share What’s Going On With Those You Trust
When you have connected the loss of your family of origin to a feeling of sadness, depression, anger, irritability, and the need to feel in control I want you to voice to others whom you trust. By sharing what is going on it will allow others around you to not focus on your behavior or how it makes them feel…it will build empathy and create a warmness in those around us to LOVE us where we are at.
4. Allow Space for Feelings to Change
As time goes on, the pain of losing our families of origin will and can look different. Allow yourself space to feel what you need, to find a safe person who gets this experience, and share as you feel comfortable.
5. Identify Potential Triggers
I find that I cannot watch commercials during the holidays, it shows the image of a “happy family” and triggers the feelings of what could have been for me, if you find this feels the same for you, try and avoid those triggers.
6. Validate the Experience of Others
If you have a child in your home that you believe is feeling things deeply during the holidays be curious and validating of their experience. I like using this three-step protocol, feel, felt, found. Here’s an example:
I see you are feeling sad today, is this correct? If so I have days where I have felt sad some days and I believe that you can feel sad if you need to. I have found that by letting yourself feel in the moment what you need to, allows you an ability to tolerate these feelings and thoughts and over time it will hopefully not cause you as much pain. Let me know how I may be of support to you during this time.
I hope these tips and advice provided you and those around you with things to consider for those with trauma during the holidays, and ways to support those in need. All the best and stay tuned for more support to come!!!
For those wanting to help foster youth manage trauma during the holidays, join us here.
About Our Guest Author
Maurissa Szilagi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of her own practice titled at The Connecting Therapist. She brings to this work over a decade of service to helping families work through issues around connection and attachment to another. As someone with first-hand experience in foster care, Maurissa is part of the 3% of former foster youth who’ve graduated from college. She has competed with the 1% of elite students and completed two academically rigorous programs.
Maurissa is determined to be a voice for foster youth in the importance of their emotional well-being and wishes to change the lives of as many as she can. Her life’s mission is that all children who have encountered trauma and foster care get the chance to heal and live a life they can be happy and proud of. We are grateful for her unique understanding of mental health and the foster care community and hope her insights offer you guidance and comfort.