When I was an abused child, my safety came from leaving the abusive home and going to school. At school, I had teachers who adored me and friends who really cared about me. I was safe. Then, school would close for the five-day weekend at Thanksgiving, and that was the painful reminder that I had two full weeks of being away from the safety of school and two weeks in my scary home environment.
I have been through years of therapy, cut off contact with all abusers, and have not been abused during the holidays in decades. Nevertheless, the holidays continue to be extremely triggering to me. I have a deep-seated fear of being “abandoned” during the holidays because I felt “abandoned” by my teachers and friends as an abused child. I know in my head that I have a safe family now and that I have many friends who care about me. Despite all of this, all it takes is one canceled plan or one canceled regular scheduled gathering to trigger that fear of abandonment in me.
My reaction to this triggering can be anything from a deep dark depression to irritability. I have a difficult time sleeping during this time of year because I don’t feel safe. Even after years of therapy and safety, this continues to be a battle for me.
If you consider that I have not been abused for decades and still react this strongly to the approach of Christmas, consider the strength of the emotions that could be affecting your traumatized foster or adopted child since he or she has only been safe from the abuse for a few months or years. It is going to take lots of time, therapy, and safety to bring your child to a place that the holidays are no longer traumatizing. This might not happen during childhood. If it doesn’t, having you to love your foster or adopted child through it and continually remind your child that he or she is safe will do wonders to help your child get through this painful time of year.