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5 Steps to have a Happy Holiday in a Dysfunctional Family

Posted Nov 30 2009 10:01pm

Abuse & Trauma, Hope & Healing

One holiday down! Now we are smack-dab in the "Holiday Season."  Whatever happen on Thanksgiving, there is not one single thing you can do to change it now. But, if something did go really wrong, you can take time to talk about it, even if the only person that is willing to discuss it is God. Are there any people you need to ask for forgiveness? Were you selfish? Were you selfless? Both are sinful, simply two sides of the same sinful coin. 

Christmas_Memory Holidays are most people's favorite times of the year, but for dysfunctional families it can be the worst of times. It is during these festive of times that the abuse and dysfunction bubble to the surface. Not that abuse happens only during the holidays, but the fact is that the pain is more intense this time of year. And the more intense the pain, the more apt those hurting are to spew their sickness on to others. "Happy Holidays" takes on a whole different meaning for survivors of abuse or those drowning in dysfunction!

There is good news. God gives each of us freewill to choose, and we have a lot of choices to make. When you are God's child, you no longer need to fear what man can do to you, or live to please man. You are free to live for God, and to listen to His desires for your safety, peace, and joy. Out of your weaknesses, He can be strong. So, where does one begin? Here are five simple steps to apply to this season so you can approach holidays to make them happy for you and your own family.

1) Set Protective Boundaries

This is often the hardest decision to make; a decision to protect yourself and your family. Most people who suffered child abuse do not naturally protect themselves from further harm. They feel guilty, responsible, and deeply crave to have 'family ties'. The family charade will continue until someone is ready to face the reality that they really don't have a family, in the normal sense of the word, nor have they ever. In setting boundaries you are recognizing that you have needs.

What do boundaries look like? Well, these are very personal choices that you make after spending time listening to God. For one person it may be to drop by for a few hours for a party. For another it may mean, no contact, not even a phone call. Since you only have to please God, don't be guilt-ed into doing or saying things. With a clear conscious, make the best choices for yourself and your own personal family (spouse, children, etc.).

You do not have to do anything! Do not put yourself or your loved ones in any danger of being abused emotionally, mentally, or physically. If you are an extrovert, schedule a few activities that will get you involved with other people during the season. If you are an introvert or struggling emotionally, give yourself the freedom to have quiet times at home like enjoying a nice cup of coffee with a slice of pie as you read a book or watch a movie.

2) Love Unconditionally 

Out of being the recipient of God's unconditional agape love, you are now able to love others. A person that not only knows they are loved by God, but believes with their heart that God loves them, bubbles over with His love for others. Acceptance of others is a natural response to accepting grace and forgiveness for your own sinfulness. The consciousness of knowing you are a sinner saved, you are not so quick to judge others, but instead you hunger to give others the acceptance of unconditional love.

So, what does unconditional love look like? It means that you can embrace people as they are today regardless of the words or actions of the past. It is extending to siblings the same level of forgiveness that God has given you. Love your family even if you disagree with their behavior. Learn to accept them as they are, and don't judge or shame them.

3) Be Sensitive to the Spirit

Realize that you may be the only Bible your family may ever see or hear. When you understand that God is the one who saves, your families salvation is not your responsibility. You do get to be light in a dark place. What you say and do will shine brightly, if you listen closely to the Holy Spirit. Your family will see more of the Bible in your actions than in putting them in awkward, uncomfortable situations. Frame a conversation with principles from God's Word without even quoting a verse, and always be ready to give a response if someone asks you about why you are different. Don't hesitate to share God's love for you.

Candlellight 4) Examine Expectations 

Survivors of child abuse often have dreams about what the perfect holiday would be like, but dreams are often unrealistic. Everyone comes to a marriage with past holiday traditions, and therefore will have different family ideas and expectations. Talk with your spouse about what he wants to continue as a family tradition for your family. This will take a lot of listening as each expresses what they like or dislike about celebrating holidays. You can even decide on new ideas for your own family. Talk about what food, decorations, places to go and things to do. Communication is a big key to lowering expectations to the level of reality.

5) Focus on God - Don't forget the true meanings of the holidays. Thanksgiving is to give thanks remembering our Christian heritage. Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth, Emanuel, God with us.

The Abuse and Trauma that you lived through does not define your life, but it does gives you more reasons to celebrate the grace and victory of God during the Holidays!

Lindy Abbott

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