GRACE, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment invited licensed clinical social workers Laura Thien and Carrie Nettles to discuss why the holiday season can be especially challenging for those who have experienced abuse or trauma, share some helpful practices for self-care, and offer guidance to those who will be interacting and serving survivors over the holiday season.
The video is approximately one hour long, so we’ve summarized the tips and ideas in it below. Please be aware that the video deals with topics around abuse and may be a trigger for some.
Summary of Tips and Thoughts in the Caring for Ourselves and Others Video
This summary was created by Jennifer Prusa, Director of Journey to Bethany. We welcome any corrections and explanation from the video’s creators.
Survivors might create a self-care kit that can engage the senses. Trauma triggers move us out of our healthy regulation, and engaging the senses helps to bring us back. A self-care kit for the senses might include essential oils, a soft stress ball, peppermints, or a small print of a soothing scene.
Manage expectations. Survivors are allowed to determine what we will and will not take part in. Gifts, for example, might be hard for a survivor to receive because they may have been part of their abuse experience. We can choose to arrive or leave early from events or not to attend at all. Begin with love and understanding to help yourself or survivors in your life make a plan to manage expectations.
Don’t “should” on yourself. Faith traditions include many “shoulds” of the season. But when abuse is tied to our faith, attending services may be very difficult if not impossible. Choosing not to attend a service might feel like a defeat, but having that choice is empowering and healing. Understanding and supporting this choice brings God’s love to our relationship.
Create new traditions. In managing expectations and supporting a choice in what events to attend or people to see, we have the opportunity to create new, meaningful traditions that help in healing.
Allow some time to recover from stressful events. When we do participate in large gatherings or church services, our nervous system may be on high alert, aware of danger for an extended time. This is exhausting, and we need to give ourselves time to recover in a way that is healthy for us.
Understand that healing is not linear. The ebb and flow of healing from trauma is normal. Offer yourself and those you love extra awareness, patience, and flexibility especially during the holidays. We don’t need to rescue Christmas; instead we are invted to be a loving, consistent, open person for those who need connection.
If there is a survivor you love and care for, especially if that survivor is yourself, we hope that you’ll find the resources at www.journeytobethany.org/resources helpful. If you need support, even if you don’t know what to say, we’re here to help at 816-683-8999.