For family and friends of domestic violence survivors, sometimes it’s difficult to know just how to help the survivors in our lives heal. It’s even exponentially more difficult during the holiday season.
What loved ones need to know is that the holiday season can bring up painful memories for the survivor. And while domestic violence does not increase during the holidays and calls to local and national hotlines often drop, that does not mean that the abuse is not happening. Societal pressures and a desire to have a happy and pleasant holiday season can sometimes keep survivors from speaking out or seeking help during the holidays.
So how can you, as the survivor’s support system, help your loved one? Below are just some simple ways to help the survivor through the holiday season.
How loved ones can support a survivor during the holidays
It’s not always easy to know how to help a loved one who is a domestic violence survivor. Sometimes, the survivor is so out of sorts that you just aren’t sure how to proceed. You know you don’t want to do anything to cause your loved one any further pain or anguish. You just do the best you can.
- Listen – So often, all survivors need is to have someone who is willing to listen to them. You don’t have to say anything. Just listen.
- Follow their lead – Sometimes the survivor is talkative about what they endured. Other times, they are not. Follow the survivor’s lead in that regard. Don’t insist they talk about something if they are not receptive to talking about it.
- Acceptance – If the survivor’s answer is “no” with regards to going anywhere that reminds them of the abuser, then you need to accept that. The survivor is creating a healthy boundary by knowing what they don’t want. And what the survivor doesn’t want is to be reminded of the abuser at every turn.
- Maintain a routine – Another thing survivors need from their loved ones, especially in the holiday season, is help maintaining a routine. Perhaps it’s a reminder to take daily medication or to incorporate self-care into their daily routine.
- Affirmations – Survivors are so used to hearing that they are worthless and unlovable. You, as the survivor’s loved ones, can help the survivor by reaffirming that they are indeed worthy and lovable. Sometimes, all a survivor needs is a reminder that positive affirmations can help boost their mood.
- Distractions – Sometimes, distractions can be a good thing. If you see the survivor begin to tense up, it could be that something is triggering them. Know when to step in and help create a welcome distraction – tell them a funny anecdote or introduce them to a new friend you may have.
A happy, fun and safe environment
Perhaps the most important thing for loved ones to keep in mind is that survivors just need to be surrounded by those who love them. Create a happy, positive and safe environment for them during the holidays. Why? Because we never felt safety with the abusers. We were always looking over our shoulders and wondering when the next verbal or physical assault would be. All we really want is to feel safe with those who matter most to us – our friends and family.
Every survivor’s healing journey is different. What may work for one, won’t work for another. Keep that in mind as you help the survivor through this holiday season.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.