Holiday Survival Tips

by Suzanne Grosser

It’s that time of year again – the holidays. Everyone is happy, children become well-behaved cherubs, and families gather to celebrate their deep abiding love for one another. Well, at least on television. In my world, not so much. Maybe not yours, either.

On television, families come together in love to forgive and forget the petty grievances of the past. But in the real world, for some families, those grievances are not petty and love is spelled c-o-n-t-r-o-l.

I was born into one of those dysfunctional families. I am not talking about families who argue over who ate the last piece of pie or whose turn it is to wash the dishes. I am not talking about couples who argue over whose family to eat turkey with. I am talking about those families where everyone knows you should not leave the nephews alone with Uncle Charlie. I am talking about those couples whose arguments end with 911 calls and arrest warrants.

If your relationships are of the second type, you need more than the standard advice found in “Happy Family Magazine.” So here are a few Dysfunctional Family Holiday Survival Tips.

1. Accept that your nostalgia for the good old days is really nostalgia for what should have been. It never really was the way it should have been. Those first three months when he treated you like a queen (You remember, right before he gave you that concussion for Christmas.), were a fluke. With that guy, they always will be. If you must have romance in your life, read a trashy novel or rent a tearjerker chick-flick. But do not under any circumstances say yes to spending any time with your violent ex.

2. They have not changed and they don’t want you to change, either. You know this already, but you need to be reminded sometimes. Yes, it is possible for people to change – look at you. But most people choose not to – especially if changing means they have to give up any power in the relationship.

If you have made some crazy decision about your life like, “I deserve to be treated with respect.”, good for you. But don’t expect your family to honor it. In fact, your choice to rise above the dsyfunctions of the past, will probably just irritate them. Hold on to your new power, your new self, no matter who doesn’t like it.

Are You Doing the Right Thing?

If you are in a relationship with a PTSD sufferer, you have asked yourself this question many times. If you are thinking of ending that relationship, there are a lot of questions you should be asking yourself. 

3. Get a new family, one that respects your choices. I did. Spend your time only with those who respect you, even if at first, that reduces your holiday guest list to you and your dog. This is also the perfect time to go out and help someone else. Volunteer opportunities are everywhere this time of year. Pick something you enjoy doing – serving meals to the hungry, wrapping donated toys for struggling families. You don’t have to make a long term commitment, and you just might meet some people you want to get to know better.

4. Say no, a lot. Some examples:

“No, restraining orders do not include an exception for Christmas Eve.”

“No, I do not drink alcohol anymore.”

“No, I will not lend you more money.”

“No, you can not stay overnight.”

Say no to any and all requests which violate your better judgment. Don’t expect your family to like your new boundaries, but demand that they respect them. If they can’t, then always, always choose your self respect. Better to spend the holidays alone, than to spend them crazy.

5. Be joyful. Some people dwell on what’s missing in their lives. Be grateful for the life you have. There are many wonderful gifts in your life: You, for example. You survived the crazy people. You did not become one of them. That is reason to celebrate.


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