If you think everyone looks forward to reuniting with family during December holidays, I have a story for you. One of my clients opened my eyes to a different experience in this cold month. She didn’t cherish any fond memories like family recipes or hugs and gifts around the fireplace.

The outlook of spending more than 3 consecutive days with the people that raised her triggered a severe survival response.

Painful memories of family collisions had her feeling ignored, judged and excluded. Just the memories of that experience threatened her sense of safety. She explained that her relatives are on their worst behavior during these gatherings. Ever since her grandparents passed away her parents, aunts and uncles had been in a clinch about the inheritance. Fueled by alcohol, uncles got verbally abusive and violent, cousins pointed out each other flaws, aunts gossiped and manipulated. She doesn’t want her kids to be present in that environment. But the little ones love family time. The knot in her stomach showed up mid November and intensified every day. She asked me how to prepare for another edition of Nightmare on Holiday St.

We uncovered that the biggest obstacle was the hush-hush habit in her nurture.

None of her relatives felt comfortable with showing up vulnerable. All these fights occurred while they toasted to the memory of their grandparents. The hostile dynamic kept enforcing fake smiles, and she had no laugh left to give. This breakthrough put her in a “nothing to lose” state of mind. I work with brave souls only, and this 39 year old woman has the heart of a lion. She called every one of her relatives last weekend. She opened up Pandora’s box with a simple strategy. For every event that left her hurt and scared, she shared her internal turmoil AND asked how the other person felt in that situation.

By opening up about her pain, her relatives did too.

Eventually the whole family got on a Zoom call to share their scars and heal as a tribe. This year, they are reminiscing the last holiday that her grandparents were still alive. They connected by opening up about the pain that came with the loss of those two fundamental family figures. All of them felt left behind and miss the old days.

If you recognize her journey, I invite you to lean in to the hurt. The first step towards healing relationships is to acknowledge the entire emotional spectrum. In stead of isolating yourself with pain, share it. When we understand each others struggle, we connect on a human level. Move your life forward with an intention that transforms your relationship with pain.