Coping with the Holidays when you are, or know, a Victim/Crime Survivor

The holiday season may seem like a time for family, joy, and happiness. Not everyone views this time of year in the same light. There are people going through some of the hardest times of their lives, whether it’s navigating the healing process as a victim of a crime, or having a loved one who is dealing with some trauma.  It’s imperative to keep this in mind as you interact with others this season.

The Office for Victims of Crime (2005) also reminds us to keep in mind that this time of year may give rise to new or returning bouts of depression, panic attacks, and other forms of anxiety for those whose lives are affected. Victims of crime, family members, friends, and work colleagues may re-experience life-changing traumas through flashbacks, nightmares, and overwhelming sadness. Some have trouble sleeping, while others don’t want to get out of bed. Other side effects could include headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and other aches and pains.

There are ways to help cope with this time of year. Having a plan as the holidays near can mitigate many of these negative reactions:

Change Traditions

Decide which traditions to keep, and which to let go. Some plans may need to be altered to accommodate the needs/requests of victims or yourself. Keep in mind the physical needs of those who may have acquired a disability as a result of victimization.

Create a Special Tribute (if coping with a holiday without a person)

There are ways to honor the memory of a loved one who has died. Candles can be lit, a space at the table can be left, flowers can be placed somewhere, or a special dish can be prepared. Special memories of that person can be shared openly or written down.

Consider Carefully Where to Spend the Holidays

Surround yourself with friends and family who support and encourage you. If you are that friend and/or family member, be sure not to tell anyone how they should feel or state that you “understand” how they feel. Just be there, for whatever they need; a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, or just some company.

Relive Fond Memories

Attempting to go through the holidays pretending that nothing has happened can be a heavy and unrealistic burden. Think about holiday seasons you have enjoyed in the past and identify memories you want to hold in your heart forever. Celebrate them and be grateful. If feelings of sadness pop up at inappropriate times, such as at work or in a public gathering, try thinking about what you have, rather than what you have lost. Focus on the blessing of the memories in your heart.

Counter the Conspiracy of Silence

Family members may consciously or unconsciously conspire to avoid mentioning the tragedy in your family. This is usually a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to protect your feelings. If this seems to be happening, take the initiative and talk to your family about the importance of talking openly about what has happened and sharing your feelings. Also, don’t be afraid to give yourself a “time out” or break from the discussion, if needed.

Protect Your Health

Eat healthy food and avoid over-indulging in sweets. Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol. Take a multivitamin. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Talk with your doctor about an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, if you think it will help.

ALWAYS remember that you can’t change the past, but you can take charge of the present and shape the future.

For more information and tips, please visit: https://ojp.gov/ovc/publications/holidaytips/welcome.html

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