The Grinch: How Abuse Stole Christmas

Today is a beautiful fall day in October. The leaves are changing, the temps are cooling, and everything pumpkin has invaded the stores. I love this time of year and Fall just might be my favorite season. I’d rather snuggle up in blankets and warm clothes than sweat it out any day of the year.

However, the holidays are not exactly something I get excited about. In fact, to be honest, I dread them. Before you stop reading this and assume I am a female Grinch please allow me to explain. I am a childhood abuse survivor.

When I was little Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years didn’t mean candy, food, presents, and fun. It meant the certainty of abuse. I still dressed up every Halloween and made wish lists for Santa. I still smiled in photos and laughed while opening presents.

My parents worried about the dangers of Halloween. They fretted over poison in candy, razors in apples, and predators roaming the streets. At Thanksgiving my Mom wanted everything perfect from the food to the place settings. At Christmas it was decorations and making sure one child didn’t receive more than the other. Normal things.

What nobody could see, what nobody knew, is that sometimes the person next to me in the photo or handing me the present was abusing me when everyone went to bed at night.

To their credit, my family provided me with plenty at every holiday. I didn’t go without and they didn’t know what was happening to me. But all these years later the presents are not what I remember. I remember being a kid and all I really wanted for Christmas was to not be abused.

As an adult survivor, I am the black sheep of my family. They might disagree but it’s the truth. And it was the truth that alienated me from most of them. That’s a different kind of loss, isn’t it? You gain something by owning your truth and stopping the abuse. On the other hand, you lose a lot of family who can’t handle the truth or prefer you were a bit more quiet with it.

They’re not gone from this earth but they’re gone from your life. You mourn their loss, you get angry at them, and you mourn some more. Hopefully at some point you gain some closure, find some acceptance, and learn to let go of what you can’t control. And yet every holiday season you are reminded of those missing people at your table.

So, this year and every year, I remember what the holidays meant for me when I was growing up and what they mean to me now. Which makes this time of year rather bittersweet for me. I know there are millions of survivors out there who know exactly how I am feeling. I also know that there are way too many kids this year that are hiding behind their smiles and asking Santa to bring them safety.  

Other people find the holidays hard because they have no homes, no money to provide presents for their deserving kids, have no families, or are struggling with the loss of a loved one. Whatever your struggle may be, remember to practice extra self care and put your mental health first. Pay attention to the words and behaviors of loved ones and strangers that might also be hurting. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or offer help.

Enjoy this holiday season but keep in mind that there are people, some of them very little, that are hurting in ways you can not even begin to comprehend.