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Christmas Lights, Decorations and Trauma

The holidays are supposed to fill us with joy, cheer and times with family and friends. However, not everyone has this experience. For some survivors, myself included the holidays can be a very difficult time.

As the Christmas lights begin to go up it fills my heart with joy seeing the homes – that often feel like mansions, and then as Christmas gets closer I get more and more triggered. The lights, candles, smells, gifts, cookies, family outings, Christmas trees - the worst for me is santa.

When I was a child the holidays were a time when the exploitation and trafficking was particularly horrific. Demand was particularly high during these times. The same things that bring most people joy, happiness and celebration can remind survivors of the trauma that they would endure.

Three things you can do to help?

1. Help create new memories and traditions.

New memories and traditions are so very important and vital. It helps our brains and bodies to remember that it is not always going to be bad, traumatic and helps our brains to be rewired to understand experience post-traumatic growth.

2. Be a ‘family of choice’ for survivors and those who have experienced trauma.

The holidays can be extremely painful for many survivors because many of our family systems have been broken at best and at worst many of us don’t have any family to speak of. During a time of year that is focused on spending time with family it is painful reminder of how alone you are and that you don’t have any family to spend the time with or celebrate with. Survivors often talk about creating a “family of choice’. This is so critical for survivors because it is so critical that survivors understand that they can be loved, accepted and welcomed in. The very vulnerabilities are often still present and welcoming people in can work to heal and restore.

3. Healing from trauma is a journey and often takes a community to heal. Understand that survivors may have trauma responses but that is ok. We were trafficked in relationship and relationship is healing to us.

Trauma is in our bodies ( mind and body) and sometimes survivors may have a reaction to something that reminds them of the trauma they experienced. When this happens being understand and compassionate can be helpful. I carry a reminder on my keychain to help me in case I become frozen I can touch it and then move on from the situation. It can also be helpful to have a few good friends to call when having a tough day or in a tough situation. Sometimes our bodies will process the trauma, so be patient with yourself if you feel excessively tired or your body feels sore it may just be the trauma and giving yourself some time and grace.

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