Trauma, holidays and friendships


The holiday celebrations are in full swing. There is Christmas movie after Christmas movie on TV and they all have a happy ending. The radio stations have a rotation of jubilant Christmas music that plays daily. Stores and malls are all joyfully decorated and there are Christmas lights and trees everywhere we look as we travel around town. Friends and family gather for dinner and parties all season long. All of these things are part of our celebration of the most wonderful time of the year.  Unfortunately, for some, this isn’t such a wonderful time of the year. It’s a time that brings back sad, painful and sometimes horrific memories of abuse that happened behind closed doors in one of those decorated homes.
People who suffer abuse sometimes find themselves feeling like they are abnormal.  There are no festive, jolly family gatherings with family, food and fun like everyone else portrays. If they are still in that abusive relationship, they find that they have been isolated and cut off from family and friends.  Their ability to meet new people or make new friends is hampered by manipulation tactics and control by the abuser. Even if they have found the strength to leave that abusive relationship, many times they have few real friends. Many of the people who were in their life during their abuse simply were not true friends or they decided to choose a relationship with the abuser over the victim. Sometimes the negative associations and memories with those who were friends during that abusive relationship are just too much for a victim so they cut those ties too.
When restarting their life, a victim has a chance to rediscover themselves. This journey of self-discovery can lead them to new hobbies, new interests and true friends. They learn to rely on themselves instead of letting others control them, but they need allies who are constant in their life and who truly have their best interests at heart. This journey can lead them to being empowered over their life and feeling more alive than ever before.
It is hard as an adult to make new friends. We all stay so busy and we can get stuck in a rut or routine. Being anxious about who you can trust because of past abuse just adds to the difficulty in making friends. If someone shares with you that they have a past affected by abuse, give them space and time to get to know you and to trust you enough to share their story. As a true friend, give them space to talk when they are ready and if they are never ready, that is okay too. Be a friend they can count on as they heal, put the past behind them and embrace their new life. Some helpful tips to be a better friend to an abuse survivor are: 1) Listen. Just listen when they need to talk. Be the safe place they can vent. 2) Try not to judge. You may not understand choices they make. Just be supportive and don’t pressure them to your way of thinking. 3) Learn what triggers they may have and understand when they pull away. Understanding their triggers may help you avoid those or at least help them cope with them when they occur. 4) Give them space if needed. Not everyone is a hugger. Respect personal space. If they suffer from PTSD, try not to startle them. 5) Help them find support and resources if needed. Support groups or crisis services in their area. 6) Take care of your needs too. Supporting an abuse survivor can be challenging so make sure your needs are also met.
If you or a loved one has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, we can help.  You may reach Crisis Services of North Alabama Jackson County office at 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000.

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25 Mar 2019
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Jackson County NARFE meeting

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