The holidays are often linked to memories, traditions, and special moments, all of which can be distorted or even destroyed after betrayal trauma. Whether you are celebrating the holidays in your own home, traveling to visit family, or something else that feels right for you, having a plan can provide a sense of security and empowerment. This plan takes into account some of the skills and tools that you may have developed through therapy or in a support group.
Knowing that we cannot plan for every possible scenario this can be seen as a guideline to help you remember your resources and create emotional safety during the holidays.
Considerations for Creating Your Plan
Reach out to your supports
The holidays can feel isolating. Many business are closed for a period of time, people are away, and you may feel that reaching out for connection to your support network would be a burden to those you care about. In these moments you can lovingly remind yourself that you are not alone in these feelings, and that connection with a trusted friend or therapist is one way we can heal from the shame, hurt, and triggers of betrayal trauma.
Identifying 1-3 people that you could reach out to (text, email, phone, meet in person with) and asking these individuals for their support can provide a sense of security and communicate a clear need.
What options will you have if you become triggered?
Being triggered during the holidays is very common, especially if this is one of the first holiday seasons since discovery.
If you become triggered, are there grounding strategies that you can use? What may help you remember these grounding strategies?
When a trigger occurs will there be options for you to take such as taking a walk, exercise, or could you connect with a support person?
Identifying your boundaries
Gathering with family and friends can come with questions and difficult discussions. Having an understanding of what you’re ok talking about, and what you do not want to share before celebrating the holidays can help you have a clear guideline in your conversations. Having a few key phrases that you can lean on is helpful. Below are a few examples:
That’s as much as I am willing to share at this moment.
I don’t know at this time.
I am having a difficult time and I need____ (ex. some space, a hug, a break from talking about this topic, etc) thank you.
I am doing the best I can to focus on my recovery, that is all I can do.
Other boundaries that you may want to review include: what your sleeping arrangements are, your ability to participate in the preparation of holiday activities (i.e. cooking, buying presents), and your general energy level. By taking inventory of your needs and tolerance level you will be able to identify a boundary that you can communicate to your family, friends, and or partner. Setting boundaries help us take care of ourselves.
Do you need any specific support from your partner ?
If you will be with your sexually addicted spouse during the holiday season, and you feel you are able to talk with them it can be helpful to share what you’ll need. For example, some people discuss how they may be able to leave a party early, how to engage in difficult conversations together, and what the safe amount of physical touch would be (i.e. holding hands, sitting beside each other, etc.). Having a conversation before the holiday season with your partner will provide clarity for both of you.
What will your self-care routine be?
Knowing that our routines can become disrupted during the holiday season it is important to identify a few manageable actions you can take to maintain a self-care routine. If exercise is critical for you to start your day in an effective and grounded way, identify a realistic way you can continue with exercise could be beneficial. If meditation has been useful for you, and you’re afraid there may not be a quiet moment to engage in mediation over the season you can try to carve out a space or time of day that may make this more manageable. It can also be useful to express the importance of any self-care routines to your family or friends so they can help support you to get these needs met.
How will you engage in self-compassion during this time?
The holiday season can be full and complex for most people. When you’re living with/ recovering from betrayal trauma these complexities grow exponentially. You will not get the holiday season “right”. You likely will not go through the experience without being triggered, and there will be moments of joy and pain. As you go through this try to treat yourself with loving kindness and to be compassionate during this time. Having a few loving kindness phrases that you feel resonates with you can be useful when you are feeling particularly low. Below are some examples of loving kindness phrases:
This is very hard for me, and I am doing the best I can
I am going to be alright
This is painful, may I be kind to myself in this moment
Oh darling, this hurts, and I’ll be ok
I am struggling, may I show myself love
Everyone’s needs and experiences over the holiday season will be different. By engaging in some planning and mindful self-compassion you will be able to minimize the suffering and utilize the skills that you have. What holiday strategies have helped you? Are there any insights that you have found helpful in navigating the holiday season?
If you are looking for therapeutic support for betrayal trauma please contact Mosaic Counselling to set up a free 20 minute phone consultation. Individual and group therapy is provided in Toronto and online counselling is also available.