How to Get Through Thanksgiving After Betrayal
The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, togetherness and gratitude. But when you’ve recently experienced betrayal by a loved one, the idea of plastering on a fake smile and pretending everything is OK can feel utterly overwhelming. Whether it was a partner who cheated, a friend who lied or spread rumors, or a family member who deeply hurt you, betrayal cuts to the core. So how do you get through Thanksgiving celebrations when you’re still reeling?
Know You’re Not Alone
Firstly, know that you’re not alone. Betrayal is one of the most painful human experiences. In the moment it happens, it can feel earth shattering. But the truth is, countless others are struggling after similar betrayals, especially around the holidays. Whatever you’re feeling – anger, hurt, confusion, grief – is normal. Allow yourself to fully process the emotions rather than suppressing them or pretending to feel thankful. Actually, suppressing your feelings increases symptoms of Post Betrayal Syndrome…it’s hard enough already, you don’t need any more physical, mental or emotional symptoms than you’re already feeling.
If your betrayal was at the hands of a family member or someone who will be at Thanksgiving dinner, setting boundaries is crucial for your mental health. You may choose not to talk to them at all, or keep things polite but superficial. Consider asking a trusted confidante to run interference if needed. Or have an exit strategy like leaving early or heading to another room if interactions become too painful. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to cope. The boundary can also be to opt out of Thanksgiving for this year if that feels right for you.
Find Supportive Company
Surround yourself with people who make you feel safe, understood and accepted. Lean on true friends and loved ones who have proven trustworthy and who know what you’re going through. Their support can make all the difference in getting through the holiday. Offer support back by asking how they’re doing and really listening. Bond over shared experiences of gratitude – or if need be, betrayal.
Practice Self Care
With betrayal comes anger, stress, anxiety, depression, sleep troubles and so much more. That’s why excellent self care is essential. Be kind to yourself by indulging in relaxing activities like yoga, massage, aromatherapy, meditation, and extra sleep. Make time for favorite hobbies and interests. Eat nourishing foods and minimize sugar and alcohol which can worsen mood. Getting through the holidays starts with taking good care of your mind and body.
Give Yourself a Break
Understand that you may not be at your best this Thanksgiving. Perhaps you’ll cry at the drop of a hat or snap at loved ones. You might lack motivation to socialize or even get out of your pajamas. That’s OK – cut yourself some slack given the difficult situation. Lower expectations of yourself, and give yourself permission to feel whatever comes up. The holidays often heighten emotions – especially this one.
Focus on the Present
When ruminating about betrayal, it’s easy to spiral thinking about what you could have done differently or what you’ll say the next time you see them. To stay grounded in the present: notice your feet on the floor, the sounds around you, your breath. Bring yourself back to the current moment anytime obsessive thoughts creep in. This mindfulness practice can reduce anxiety and improve coping.
While you may not exactly feel thankful toward your betrayer, there is still much to be grateful for. Make a list of all your current blessings – special people who stand by you, health, cherished memories, personal strengths, favorite foods. Recalling abundance in other areas of your life creates perspective and lifts your spirit.
Laugh When Possible
Laughter really is good medicine, lowering cortisol and releasing feel-good endorphins. Look for small moments of humor when you can, like watching a funny movie or joking with trusted friends and family. Even a slight smile can boost your mood. Laughter helps release the tight grip that betrayal can have on your heart.
Do Something Meaningful
Serving others is a powerful way to get outside your own pain. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or charity event. Reach out to someone else who is also hurting. Support a cause aligned with your values. Helping others allows meaning to emerge from your suffering – and builds hope for the future.
Forgive When You’re Ready
Forgiveness after betrayal takes time, and don’t force it before you’re ready. However, research shows that forgiveness is ultimately for you, lowering your hurt and anger over time. It doesn’t mean condoning hurtful actions or letting the betrayer back into your life. Simply release bitterness and desire for revenge in your own time to help untether their actions from your health, heart and life.
The holidays will likely feel extra challenging this year as you navigate betrayal and complex family dynamics. Be patient and caring with yourself above all – and know that each day is one step closer to healing. With the right self-care strategies and support system, you can get through Thanksgiving and start moving forward.
Dr. Debi-A Trusted Resource in an Untrusting Niche
Dr. Debi Silber, Founder and CEO of The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute and National Forgiveness Day is an award-winning speaker, bestselling author, holistic psychologist, a health, mindset and personal development expert who helps (along with her incredibly gifted Certified PBT-Post Betrayal Transformation Coaches and Practitioners) a predictable, proven multi-pronged approach to help people heal (physically, mentally and emotionally) from the trauma of betrayal.