Divorce Your Toxic Family: Enjoy The Holidays
‘Tis the season to spend the holidays with family. And yet I’m writing a blog post about folks who deliberately spend the holidays away from family. This post contains some descriptions of abuse.
Many folks this holiday season have memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas they’d rather not share. They have memories of vases shattering as they hit the mantle and lots of screaming. They remember trying to tiptoe around their parents, fearful of making too much noise or even just being noticed. If not parents; maybe it was an uncle, or grandparents, or a family friend that might as well be an aunt. Regardless, the toxic person in question has usually demonstrated over a period of years that they will abuse the people in their lives, putting them down, screaming at them, even striking the person or outright disowning them. Looking back on these memories and the fact that it always seems to keep happening, many people decide to divorce their toxic family.
If you’ve divorced your family, spending time with them around the holidays was something to survive not enjoy. You have bravely decided to get away from this abuse and are often given cold comfort from well-meaning friends or other family members who are perpetuating a painful stigma. You have heard “But she’s your mother” so many times that explaining how often mom would hit or scream seems like too much effort. And even after offering some carefully chosen examples of abuse, trying to pick an example that shows how bad it was without scaring someone away, as reasons for not having contact you are usually told “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself” or “that’s in the past.” Never mind that this behavior would resume if you had contact again.
If you have divorced your toxic family – stay strong. I know a lot of people might be encouraging you to forgive and reconcile; you already know it takes two. After years of being offered insincere apologies that have lured you back into a relationship that consisted of tearing you down, you are wary of the idea of forgiveness. Most folks who have been exposed to a toxic version of forgiveness, that is used to keep you in the abuse cycle, prefer the idea of acceptance. It is healthy to accept what has happened and try to heal. Since you’ve put so much effort into keeping yourself safe, it’s okay to wait for someone to make serious attempts at amends before you venture forward with reconciliation. You were hurt and your trust broken; there is nothing wrong with building a happy, healthy life free from abuse.
As a society we always ask things like “Why didn’t she leave her abusive husband sooner? He hit her!” But somehow when parents hurt their children we are shocked when these adult children divorce their parents after often enduring decades of abuse.
If you have been thinking about divorcing yourself from your toxic family you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to the supportive people in your life that hate seeing you hurt and lean on them. Go to Psychology Today and find a therapist. Leaving behind a toxic support system is still a loss, a complicated and painful one. You deserve to have all the love and support you need to heal.