How To Help A Family Member With PTSD Enjoy The Holidays

Kristine Burke
December 1, 2017

Article written by Jennifer Scott at for True Health CFM

Photo via Pixabay by  547877

The holidays can be a stressful, overwhelming time for many. For those suffering with PTSD, this time of year can be especially difficult, and it’s important for friends and loved ones to know how to help and what behaviors to avoid.

While every PTSD sufferer is different, many people find certain things to be triggers for stress and anxiety. For some veterans, the holidays might be a hard time because they’ve lost friends to suicide around this time of year. Some individuals who have suffered abuse might have bad memories associated with the holidays. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that you cannot force someone who lives with PTSD to participate in holiday activities and family functions simply because you feel they should be there. Doing so could be detrimental to their health and wellbeing. Instead, keep in mind that they have different needs and those needs should be accommodated when possible.

Here are a few of the best ways you can help a loved one with PTSD enjoy the holidays.

Don’t force the issue

Instead of inviting your loved one to a family function or asserting that you feel they should show up, ask them what they would like to do. Let them make the decision, because being forced into a situation that makes them uncomfortable will only make them feel like an outsider.

Be respectful

Remember that your loved one may be feeling things that are outside your understanding, and that’s okay. Not having gone through their experience means you will never fully comprehend what they’re going through now. Respect their decisions and allow them to cope with their feelings; however, if you feel that they are experiencing sadness and are worried about them, it’s okay to let them know you’re there to listen.

Keep get-togethers intimate

If your loved one does decide to attend a party or family get-together, remember that large crowds of people may be overwhelming for them and keep it low-key. If substance abuse has been an issue for them, avoid serving alcohol and offer plenty of beverage options.

Be mindful of triggers

Certain things might trigger anxiety in a person living with PTSD, so be mindful of their needs when spending time with them over the holidays and plan out a way for them to deal with it. For instance, designate a room at the back of the house where your loved one can go, away from the party, and collect themselves for a bit. Ask your loved one what you can do to help them feel better, but don’t push the issue or make it a big deal to the other family members.

Connect with your loved one

Many sufferers living with PTSD don’t like talking about their trauma, but it’s okay to ask them what you can do to help them feel more comfortable. If that means working out a signal so both of you know when they’ve hit their limit and need a break, do so. What soothes them? A particular song, movie, or activity (such as coloring or knitting) can go a long way toward helping an individual with PTSD calm themselves, so keep those activities handy.

What Our Patients Say
Wouldn’t it be great if your Dr. actually listened?