WARNING: Graphic Images
“I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me.”
– “Blue Christmas”, Elvis Presley
The holidays can be a difficult time for abuse victims, especially those of us suffering from depression. We cannot help but compare the idealized scenes of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Diwali festivities with our own childhood experiences.
Even the “best” of holiday gatherings may have been rife with tension. All too often, there was little to be joyful about.
Children in dysfunctional homes do not receive the care and attention they deserve. Through no fault of their own, they may become the targets of their parents’ rage or neglect.
There are numerous reasons for this . A child may have been the product of an unwanted pregnancy or hard delivery; may seem in some way “abnormal” or resemble someone toward whom the parent has harsh feelings. A parent may actually be jealous of the child. None of these reasons justifies abuse.
Affection, if it is given at all, can be unevenly distributed. One child may be showered with gifts and praise, while another is heaped with scorn – made the target of punishment and criticism, with the favored child encouraged to join in. This can warp the relationship between siblings or destroy it outright.
Substance abuse only aggravates the situation. Holiday memories pile on holiday memories: Christmas trees toppled; presents non-existent or smashed in anger; an intoxicated parent in a stupor on the lawn, reeking.
As the years go by, the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that victims endured as children impacts their adult lives. This, in turn, generates pain and regrets, all of which resurface at the holidays.
Our sorrow seems to stand in sharp contrast to the merriment of others. We cannot, of course, see into their hearts to know. Many are likely to be putting on as brave a face in public as we are.
In an effort to cope, some of us throw ourselves into holiday activities 24/7 – cooking, baking, buying, and wrapping at a frenetic pace. Some may be tempted to eat or drink themselves into oblivion. There are though healthier strategies for dealing with the holidays.
A. Reducing the Pace
Not all holiday activities require our participation. We may want to cut back, and spend time in a way that comforts and reassures us. Skiing, sitting by the fire with a cup of cocoa, or reading a good book are not illegal. Visiting the aquarium or taking in a movie would be fine, too.
B. Avoiding Drama
Why not skip the dramatic scenes this year? Abuse victims are allowed to decline invitations they know will prove distressing – no excuses necessary.
C. Letting Go of Perfectionism
There are no officials judging our performance. True, there may be friends or family who see themselves in that role. Just think of them as delusional.
Life is not a swim meet timed to the second or a dance recital with every moment carefully choreographed. Do not buy into the fiction that you must be “perfect”.
D. Focusing on Spirituality
Above all, abuse victims should try and focus on the spiritual meaning behind the holidays they choose to observe. From whatever creed those holidays arise, they are intended as celebrations…not tests of stamina.
For Christians, Christ’s miraculous birth should be at the heart of Christmas festivities. That has very little to do with aluminum trees, laser spotlights, professional decorators, or even fruitcake. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
If that is not enough to inspire us, we can always pull the covers over our heads, and wait it out. The holidays do pass, eventually. With a little luck, we’ll survive them again this year!
 Child Abuse Effects, “Why Parents Target a Specific Child for Abuse” by Darlene Barriere, 10/07, http://www.child-abuse-effects.com/why-parents-target-a-specific-child-for-abuse.html.
FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com