Surviving Mother’s Day and the Holidays

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As Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and then Father’s Day will soon follow, it can be very hard for survivors of incest and abusive families on those “holidays”.   You may not want to speak with your mother who abused you or enabled the perpetrator to abuse you.  And yet there are commercials all over the television and radio about how you should go out of your way to thank your mother.  But not all mothers deserve to be thanked.  Many mothers who are abusive or enabled abuse were not truly mothers at all.  So what is the best way to take care of yourself on these and other family holidays?

When you hear mother’s day or father’s day commercials either say “Yey, I have been a great parent to myself, what would be a great way to celebrate my success in being a great parent?” or change the channel.  Or reply to the add, “You’re right, I do deserve a huge bouquet of flowers for being such a great parent to myself”.   A great way to avoid those commercials is to watch and listen to CDs, DVDs, downloads, etc.   Or if you have children, you can focus on what a great parent you have been to your children.  No, really, look where you came from, you allowed your loving instincts to raise, protect and nurture your children, even though you never had an example of what a great parent should look like.

When you hear restaraunt commercials you may want to take yourself out for a great meal to celebarate that you have been a great parent to yourself, but maye not on Mother’s Day itself.  Once I had decided to take myself out to a fancy restaraunt for dinner on Christmas and I was alone.  I had gone to a small town to spend some time healing from being sick when I was in college.  I figured that because I am Jewish, going to dinner alone on Christmas would not be an issue but it was.  But when I heard all of the families laughing together, I felt very alone.  To make matters worse, I had not brought any dress clothes to my healing vacation, so they sat me in the corner by the kitchen.  So being around other happy families when you are alone, may not be the best idea, however being around real friends and if you have your own family now could be great.

If you have separated from your abusive family then you need to acknowledge yourself for already taking a huge step toward healing and taking care of yourself.   But others may not see it like that, sometimes other people will tell you that you should talk and spend time with your family no matter what.

So what are some good ideas?  First of all, if there are people who are telling you that you should be with your family or forgive and forget, I recommend if they are “friends” it might be time to realize that they do not support you as much as you deserve to be supported.  If they are strangers  who are randomly giving you advise you may want to say thanks and walk away from them or say to the “I don’t really have a mother”.  When you say that you do not have a mother, you are stating the truth, because no real mother would rape you or allow you to be assaulted by someone else.  I have also tried a less successful approach by trying to explain to those people that I am an abuse survivor.  But people who think that you should be with your family no matter what rarely care that I was repeatedly raped at home.  So if I can get away from my family, I can most certainly get away from non-supportive people.  Also keep in mind that as you heal, even though you may have to give up certain “friends” to heal, you will attract real friends to replace the non-supportive ones.

Another question that you can ask yourself is “How have I been a loving mother to my inner child?”  You may find out that you actually a better mother to yourself than you have ever given yourself credit for.  What are some ways of parenting ourselves?  Listening to the feeling that come up inside.  Eating when we are hungry, sleeping when we are tired, basically listening to our body’s basic needs and taking care of those needs.  Then we can ask what are things that we enjoy doing now or loved doing as children and setting aside time to do things that make us smile.  I love being outside, going for walks in nature and reading cool children’s books, so I set aside time for that.   I highly recommend the book “Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, it has tons of great exercises that helped me to realize better ways to take care of myself and my inner child.

If you are going to be alone on the holidays, try planning a day of doing things that you love.  For me it can be a day of hiking, camping or going on an adventure to a place I have never been before.  I can buy myself something that I love because it’s time to celebrate me for being a great parent to me.  Plan the day ahead of time, with things that you will be excited to do.  Do not wait til the holiday comes because then it can put too much pressure on yourself.  You might also want to think if you have real friends that it might be fun to make plans with for that day.

Having a great time on the holidays, is about reframing the day to celebrate who you are and your successes.  You may still have some sadness come up, acknowledge how you feel, reach out, call a hotline if you need to, they may also be able to help you to make a good plan to have the best holiday that you can.  But most importantly, take care of yourself.  You deserve a great life.

You are strong, you have been able to find this post and I truly believe that with the right planing, you will successfully get through Mother’s Day and all of the other family holidays and with practice and healing, the holidays will become easier and easier and you might even have some fun.  But whatever feelings come up be gentle with yourself and listen to what you need to do for you.  You can be a great parent to yourself.

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About Amy Marschak

I am a survivor of sexual abuse and through my healing process I have written my one woman play "An Angel Cried A Tear Last Night" an autobiography of forgetting remembering and healing from child sexual abuse. I have toured this play coast to coast in the United States and Canada. This play has also run for four months in Los Angeles, toured universities and conferences where I have keynoted. I also lead a various workshops from healing from abuse to public speaking, you can read more about me at InspiredToSpeak.com.