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Pet Ways to Ease Stress
with Jessica Loftus, Ph.D. & Jack Murray

Dear Abuser: 15 Wishes for the Holidays

Living in an abusive household hurts most during the holiday season. Drunken episodes, physical altercations and humiliating verbal assaults severely dampen the joyful holiday spirit. Here is an abused pet’s wish list for this holiday season.

  1. Please don’t drink too much.

This only starts fights. Enjoy a glass or two of eggnog, but not the entire half gallon of rum.  If you can’t drink moderately, then take a holiday from drinking – at least during the family gathering.

  1. Stay calm.

Resist the temptation to yell, scream, name call, throw things or participate in any form of physical violence. If necessary, go for a walk or count to ten.

  1. Leave politics at the front door.

Why fight about our divided nation at holidays? You’re not going to change others’ opinions. If you really want to change our country, make sure you vote and get involved in local politics.

  1. Forget about the hurts of years past.

Just for this holiday, focus on the happy moments of present. If you simply can’t, then don’t participate in the holiday.

  1. Use cell phone etiquette.

Don’t spend the entire time scolling and texting on your cell phone. Have some respect for your family members who don’t want to watch you contact your friends every few minutes.

  1. Don’t ruin the day.

Avoid hurtful gestures like tearing up holiday cards, making rude comments about gifts or refusing to open them. Just because you cant enjoy a holiday doesn’t give you the right to ruin it for everyone else.

  1. Be a good sport.

Even if you don’t feel like singing Christmas Carols or playing holiday charades, go along.  Who knows?  You might have a little fun.

  1. Compliment the cook.

Even if you don’t like the meal, at least compliment the effort. Don’t criticize the meal that the cook spent days preparing.

  1. Say something nice.

Kind words like “I love you.” “I’m proud of you.” “I’m happy to see you.” can go far to soften hearts. The amazing power of a few simple words can heal many past hurts.

  1. Give thoughtful gifts.

A couple of bills stuffed in an envelope or a bargain-table item found on Christmas Eve do not convey caring. If you do give a gift card, present in a thoughful personalized keepsake box.

  1. Don’t brag.

Not everyone finds your latest vacation, home remodeling or fancy car as interesting as you do. Trumpeting your good fortune only hurts those who have less. Besides, why advertise that you have low self esteem?

  1. Steer clear of hurtful jokes.

Jokes at another’s expense are rarely funny to anyone except the joker. Nobody benefits from passive-aggressive insults that are quickly denied or invalidated.

  1. Find something to compliment.

Take a holiday from criticism. Nobody wants to hear about their failures or shortcomings in front of family at a holiday gathering. Say something kind and genuine instead.

  1. Resist the temptation to compete.

No one needs to “win” on a holiday, at a game, argument or the latest job promotion.

  1. Don’t make children cry.

Belittling, teasing and tickling after they beg you to stop are hurtful behaviors. The most hurtful behavior is to invalidate a childs pain by telling them to stop crying or worse yet, tell them to “Get over it!”

For those of you who may be tempted to engage in these actions at the holidays, please rethink your behavior.  Hurting others will not heal your pain in the long run. Find more productive ways to deal with your past abuse, loss or disappointments.  Counseling, support groups, 12-step, self-help books, spiritual practice can help you to heal your pain so that you one day may be able to actually enjoy a holiday. Also, remember to cherish your favorite pet who loves you unconditionally every day of the year.

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Dear Abuser: 15 Wishes for the Holidays

Jessica Loftus

Jessica Loftus has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist and national certified career counselor for more than 20 years. She currently offers counseling sessions via telehealth in Illinois. Her website,, outlines steps for making a career decision. details. See her retired blog, "Pet Ways to Ease Stress,"

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APA Reference
Loftus, J. (2019). Dear Abuser: 15 Wishes for the Holidays. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Oct 2019
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