Five Tips For Surviving Holiday Gatherings

Let’s face it, for many people the holiday season is a reminder of past and current emotional and/or physical abuse, missing family members, the gathering together of dysfunctional family, even abusers, alcohol consumption and more.

So, how does one get through a day which may possibly have to be spent surrounded by dysfunctional behaviors?

1. Remember that other people’s behaviors are not yours. If it becomes projected toward you, you get to get up and walk away. You get to gather your brood and keys, respectfully say your goodbyes and simply leave. On this day, and every day, you have the right to self preserve and exit from toxic environments. If you feel you may end up in an abusive encounter, arrange a way to be able to leave as soon as you can.

2. We live in an age of pressure. We worry over judgment and backlash. Not attending a family function can create an arena of hurt. We don’t want the family to be upset at us. We don’t want to have to rehash grudges still being held against us. We don’t want to experience any new wounds. Remember that your peace of mind belongs to you. If you feel it is safer for you not to attend, then you don’t have to. If you do decide to attend gatherings though, for yourself, focus on any moments of positive laughter and conversation.  Focus on the familial connections which feel positive for you.

3. If you encounter triggers such as passive aggressive comments made toward you, skewed stories told that are meant to make you feel bad or humiliated or other audio invasions such as high noise levels, remember to use some grounding tools. Have headphones with you to temporarily block out the noise and negative conversation. Not only does it silently make the statement that you are unwilling to participate in toxicity, it also allows you a temporary mental escape as you listen to soothing music on your phone. If you feel yourself dissociating, silently name five red, green, white or black items in the room. Grab some ice water. Run your hand over the couch material or a solid object beside you, focusing in on its texture in your mind to bring you present into the room . If there are children around ask one of them if they want to play catch. Toss a stuffie or ball or any small item back and forth with them. These tools can all help to bring you back into the present.

4. Stay sober. Try not to drink in an attempt to relax. Keep your mind aware and focused. Concentrate on breathing. Visualize a protective barrier between you and those who you are not comfortable being around.

5. Set a time limit on your visit, and have an exit strategy. If three hours is all you feel you can handle, then try and time your visit so that the family meal is starting and wrapping up within your time frame. Be okay with taking a “to go” plate to enjoy later when you are back in your own safe space.

In essence, please remember to not be guilted into placing yourself in anxious or stressful familial situations. Even if your family doesn’t understand you, or doesn’t try to, know that you have the right to reserve your own comfort zone.

Remember to stay in the present.

Remember that if you feel triggered you have the right to ground or leave.

Remember that many people are not mindful of others’ needs, so prepare a self care list that you can glance at if you feel your mind can’t focus on its own. Looking at a list of ways to ground yourself can, in itself, also bring you into the present.

To my fellow abuse survivors who struggle through the holidays, I am with you in my heart. Here’s to the passing of another year and the start of a new one.

Vennie Kocsis is a child abuse survivor and the author of “Cult Child“. She is an outspoken advocate for trauma survivors.

For Those Who Aren’t Merry

I feel reclusive during the holiday season. I feel withdrawn, and my skin crawls from the frenzy of human energy scurrying to appease their loved ones in the name of what they believe to be truth; over charging credit cards; bleeding themselves dry to have the best; to look the best; to hope their friends will say theirs was the best…


They call it the North Star, which actually shines over the North Pole and couldn’t have possibly been shining over an alleged son of a god.

I realize that most humans don’t really care about truth right now. They are too caught up in appearances, what others will think of them, over compensating their children and giving way to consumerism while other humans starve, struggle and weep with pain.

I don’t feel “joyful, joyful we adore thee” when I see Christmas lights. Instead I think, “what a waste of electricity that the tax payers have to absorb.”

I’m not bah hum bug. I’m a realist who doesn’t believe in the birth of a messiah. I’m a person who refuses to give way to the mind control and the over-rated mass carnage that is Black Friday.

Social networking disappears for me during these times. I man my personal pages but hide away from reading my personal feeds too much. It’s emotional triggering and draining to me to observe how superficial humans can be.

Change is once again upon me; there are unknowns swirling all around in my life, and celebrating falseness is not on the top of my priority list. Surviving is.  I see people suffering in the same places I see people fawning and showing off their greed. Will they ever stop, for just one moment, and look around to see the vast needs of the suffering?  Will they ever say, this year, we’re going to help others, because maybe, that’s what this is all truly about.

I see apathy disguised as giving. I see narcissism disguised as care and concern. I see the realism that lies deeply under the surface of plastic smiles and over drawn bank accounts.

and I hide away. I hide in my cave where I don’t have to see the sickness in humanity; the mental illness that can bury my soul with the heaviness of it all.

The Bah Humbug Weapon

I came to a realization. It’s not the non-Christmas worshippers (“thou shalt have no other gods before me” – just a snippet reminder for my Christian readers) who have the bah humbug bug. It’s the worshippers themselves.

Wait. What?


Because they are so wrapped up (pun intended) in themselves and/or their worship of the Tree or the Geez-us) they have no ability of mindfulness to the ones who choose not to worship this day or worship…. Anything. At all. Ever.

I got to wake up today to “Merry Christmas” text wishes on my phone from people who’ve known me at least a minimum of three years (the acquired minimum needed to receive an answer back from me via telephone/text devices – lol – OR about how long it takes to get to know my complicated existence) and did it not cross their minds the conversations and/or the previous years I didn’t participate? Nope. Not even a mind glance or think wink towards me. Just their festive elfy dancing of “me me me!” Merry… What?

Oh, and a very appreciative thank you to the two people who gave me New Moon / Solstice wishes. It was indicative of who pays attention. One was my brother.

Here’s some handy tips for the Christ-Mass Worship-ors in regards to me or us (if the us-es don’t mind me speaking for the anti-X-Mass Coalition):

1. Don’t assume because we don’t bow to the tree we’re not happy. We are. It’s a nice day off to relax.

2. We tolerate your blinking lights and consumerism. Tolerate our choice and/or inability to contribute to the light show and frantic overspending.

3. Just because you decide to give us a gift (because you choose to forget our choices) doesn’t mean we owe you one. We give to you just because… Remember? No? Let me grab my ledger. O_o

4. Yes you can bring us a plate from your gathering. Food is always welcome.

5. Have fun with your worship! Just stop being attacking by accusing us of being “sad” or “humbug” for not joining in.

6. FYI – Satan, I mean Santa’s not real. Neither of them are. Just let it ruminate.

7. There just needed to be a number 7.

So go have fun, whatever you do, and remember not everyone is exactly like you. After all, imagine if everyone was exactly like me. O_O

I know…. I… Know.

Here’s to a new year of more change, growth and awakening.