Whether you’re estranged from your family, limiting contact with them, or processing the truth about your childhood, Thanksgiving can be one very difficult holiday.
Images of delighted, happy-to-be-together families gathered around the dining room table or playing football in someone’s gorgeous leaf-filled lawn are everywhere, not just on commercials but on social media accounts, too. And while a majority of those images come from ad agencies, some families do genuinely love to get together and bow their heads in Thanksgiving for what they have been blessed to receive.
But what if your family isn’t one of those?
I’ve written before about having a peaceful Thanksgiving when you’re an adult survivor of emotional child abuse. But I also want to reiterate a theme here at The Invisible Scar: Despite what an emotionally abusive childhood may have tried to pound in your head, you DO matter.
And amid all the extraneous displays of gratitude—the Thanksgiving feast, football games, and autumnal decorations—the heart of the holiday is giving thanks.
The first Thanksgiving wasn’t about an inner circle of family and relatives—the holiday was about much more than that. The first folks to celebrate this holiday were grateful for their lives, for making it through some seriously rough patches, for growing in their understanding of what to do to survive, their relationships.
If you’ve found your way to The Invisible Scar this Thanksgiving holiday, know that secret blessings exist. Those blessings perhaps don’t shine so brightly amid the darkness of the past, but they’re there.
Here are a few things to be grateful for during this holiday season…
Be grateful that you are alive
I’m not being sarcastic or flippant. The percentage of abusive survivors who suffer depression is staggering. The abused have endured the attempted murder of their souls, of who they are, of what they are, of their personalities… and it’s exhausting to fight for one’s being. But you’re here! You are fighting the good fight.
You’re alive and here, and we’re so glad you are.
Be grateful that you know the truth about your childhood
So many emotional child abuse survivors do not awaken until much, much, much later in life…. and many end up repeating the behaviors of abuse because they do not see the abuse for what it was.
Survivors who acknowledge their childhood abuse often can end the abuse in their generation and have healthy relationships with their children.
Be grateful that you don’t have to endure the nonsense of “making an appearance”
Thanksgiving can be difficult for people who have contentious relationships with their kin, and a lot of people endure painful holiday feasts, even when they don’t like the people, for fear of being alone, for being perceived as odd if they don’t see relatives, etc.
Embrace the fact that you don’t have to endure this kind of bull. You don’t have to plaster on a fake smile, pretend that everything is hunky-dory, stress about who might say what to whom… You are fortunate indeed.
Get together with a friend or two that you actually like, have a Thanksgiving meal (if you want, you can get one at a restaurant or take-out place) and celebrate your own low-key Thanksgiving.
Be grateful that you are moving to a healthier emotional life
At The Invisible Scar, we recommend therapy (everyone needs a little help!), books, prayer, and the company of a good friend or two to keep you tethered to reality. If you’re doing all that or even just one or two things, you’re in the process of getting better. You’re unearthing truths and not shaking in fear of them. You’re seeking to live a life in the truth. And that’s one big amazing miracle. Be grateful for it.
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Remember, friends: You are braver and stronger than you think.
Onward and upward.
Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications.
photo credit: Adrian Valenzuela