How to get through the holidays after a trauma. Stepping Stone Community Services Blog

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Author: Lynda Benigno

Exhausted, scared, numb, lonely, angry. Emotionally and maybe physically tapped out. Whatever feeling it is inside of you is okay. The holiday season can be especially difficult for anyone who has gone through a trauma or experienced a loss. The expectation is everyone should be joyful no matter what is going on inside. We don't want to make others uncomfortable, so we stuff our emotions down and put on a smile. This expectation extends beyond the holiday season. There is a general push in society to be optimistic at all times. While I will be the first to admit I believe in the importance of optimism in everyday life, I also think it has its time and place. Ignoring our emotions, attempting to cover them up seemingly for our own sake or the sake of others is at best, damaging. Being present isn't just about the joys in our life, it means giving full attention to the unpleasant as well. Acknowledgment can be a catalyst for change when you are ready, but you don't have to be ready now.

Whatever negative emotions you have, they are yours to have. It is your experience for as long as you need it to be. The experience does not define you as weak. Honoring those feelings- by recognizing its presence and allowing yourself to feel it fully, makes you pretty darn strong. Feel no guilt for the existence of those feelings or taking the time to honor them. Notice when you accept those emotions that you are still breathing, you are still standing, and you are strong.

Sometimes our emotions are not something that needs to be resolved quickly so we can go about our day. We can find compassion for ourselves by honoring our emotions as opposed to covering it up with positivity. People you are close to may be well-intentioned and want to help because they want you to feel well. Sometimes this has more to do with their discomfort; they see you are not happy, and they want to "fix" so that you feel happy, and so do they. If we recognize this tendency, we can respond with compassion. I recommend using a phrase such as: " Thank you for trying to help, I am processing right now and need some time.".

No one's life is free from discomfort, and our emotions can be challenging to get a handle on sometimes. I promise you are not alone. You may wake up one day and feel unhappy. You have no idea why, no clue as to what brought it on. That's okay! If you know why it's occurring that's okay too. There is zero need for you to justify it to anyone. Now that's not to say you can walk around and treat others terribly because of it and unfortunately that does occur. We have all heard the saying " Hurt people hurt others.", and if you are having difficulty processing your emotions or projecting your hurt onto others, I highly recommend you speak with a therapist.

I want you to know it's okay that you don't feel okay, take all the time you need.

The opinions expressed in this article are of the author and not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any mental or physical condition. If you are struggling, please contact your healthcare provider, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Stepping Stone Community Services at 330-577-6656.