Family Gatherings as a Trauma Survivor

Are you a survivor of childhood trauma, had a complicated relationship with parents while growing up, or just find family gatherings very stressful yet still feel inclined to attend? That’s okay. I’ve put together a checklist of ideas to help support you through the event.

Preparation and Planning

  • Create a safety plan: Outline strategies to ensure you feel safe during family events. Identify a safe space or person you can turn to if needed.
  • Set boundaries: Clearly define your boundaries and communicate them to trusted family members. This could include limits on topics of conversation or the duration of your stay.

Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques

  • Deep breathing exercises: Practice deep breathing to stay grounded and manage anxiety in the moment.
  • Grounding techniques: Use ground techniques, such as focusing on your senses or carrying a comforting item, to stay present and connected.

Coping Strategies

  • Bring a comfort item: Carry a small object or wear something that brings comfort and a sense of security
  • Mindful distraction: Engage in activities that provide a distraction without triggering stress. This could be reading, listening to calming music, or doing a mindfulness exercise. I find washing dishes helpful; it’s grounding and I’m still around my family.

Communication Skills

  • Express your needs: Communicate your needs to family members or a trusted person in advance. Let them know what support looks like for you.
  • Use “I” statements: when expressing your feelings or boundaries, use “I” statements to convey your experience without sounding accusatory.

Seek Support

  • Identify allies: Identify family members or friends who understand and support your experience. Connect with them during gatherings.
  • Therapy: Consider seeking therapy or counseling to process past trauma and develop coping strategies specific to family-related anxiety.

Post-Event Self-Care

  • Self-reflective practices: Engage in self-reflective practices after family events to understand triggers and emotions. This might be helpful to do with a counselor.
  • Self-care routine: Establish a self-care routine post-event to help process any residual stress or anxiety.

Emergency Coping Kit

  • Create a kit: Prepare a small kit with comforting items, coping cards, or affirmations that you can discreetly access if needed.
  • Emergency contact: Have a trusted friend or therapist as an emergency contact who you can reach out to for support.

Remember, it’s crucial to prioritize your well-being and set realistic expectations for yourself. Seeking professional support from a therapist experienced in trauma and anxiety can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific situation.



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