When Family Holidays are More Horror than Hallmark

Rose Bak
4 min readDec 21, 2019

How to Protect Yourself from Trauma and Strife this Christmas

Photo courtesy of Canva

“Some families are messed up while others are fine
If you think yours is crazy, well you should see mine” — Dropkick Murphys

There’s something about Christmas. It has a special ability to build up expectations and tear them down, over and over. There’s more trauma associated with Christmas than any other holiday.

If you and your family have those lovely Hallmark Christmases where everyone is happy and there’s never any stress or trauma, congratulations, you can stop reading now.

For the rest of us, let’s talk about Dysfunctional Family Christmas.

For many people, Christmas is fraught with disappointment, family drama and a sense of obligation. There may be mental illness or addiction in the family. There may be strong differences in politics. There may be years of grudges that can’t be overcome. There may be a lack of acceptance for someone’s life choices. There may be fighting and tears. In these cases, the question might not be “how to have a good Christmas”, but rather “how to get through Christmas”.

Here are some tips for protecting yourself this holiday season:

Remember you have a choice: Sometimes the worst thing about the holidays is the sense of obligation. “I can’t not go to my parents,” you may tell yourself. “It’ll just cause a big fight”. Or maybe you think, “It’s not fair to keep my kids away from their grandparents because they drive me crazy”. Totally valid, but it’s still your choice.

Your choice may be between having a miserable Christmas with your family, or having a miserable Christmas alone. Your choice may be between going to Christmas and being belittled by your mother or skipping it and getting into a fight with you family about why you weren’t there. You may not like any of the choices, but you have the power to choose which bad choice you want to go with. Tell yourself “I’m choosing to do this” and you’ll feel less helpless. And then make the best of it.

Go With Realistic Expectations: Like the old saying goes, “expect the best but plan for the worst”. If every family Christmas for the last 20 years has ended with fights and…

Rose Bak

Rose Bak is a freelance writer and yoga teacher who lives in Oregon. Find her at https://linktr.ee/rosebak or follow @authorrosebak on social media.