By Kathleen Wright Brawn

The Holidays are here and while it is supposed to be a joyful family time, those of us who have gone through or is going through the trauma of isolation from a loved one, it can be an empty, painful time.

I know for myself last Christmas I could barely get out of bed.  I didn’t put up a tree or lights and could hardly wait to get home from dinner at my mom’s so I could go back to bed.

In 2012, my deep depression was triggered by the fact my father’s caretaker took my 80 yr old father, who suffered from dementia, back east on Christmas Day. She did this without letting my siblings and I know where they were going or when they were coming back. She refused to answer our calls and emails.

The isolation had started.

It’s important that all of us who have experienced isolation from a loved one realize they have been traumatized and could later suffer from PTSD. Isolation is a crime not just against our loved one but against the whole family and friends of that loved one. 

It is so important to realize that our separation from our loved one will create anxiety. From thoughts of “Is my dad being fed and given his meds” to “Does he think I abandoned him?” Separation can also cause fear, anger, sadness, guilt, confusion.

So many feelings in a large degree can cause your brain to shut down because it can’t process thoughts and feelings. This can cause someone to numb out, forget things, lose words to express themselves, act indifferent, or have outburst of tears or anger. These symptoms of trauma can last years, especially if the isolation of the loved one continues.

Holidays have major triggers for those feelings to return. Since it’s a time for family and traditions that alone will bring memories of missing family members.

Because of this, it is so important to remember that you did not cause this situation. You did not fail your parent. There was nothing you “should have” done or said to prevent what happened. Blaming yourself does nothing.

Here are some things to help you move on to start healing the trauma and start moving forward instead of being stuck:


1.  Reach out or talk about your feelings and thoughts to someone you feel safe with. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help, like a therapist. They are trained to work with trauma victims and can help you get through the fog so you can think clearer.

2.  Take care of your body and soul. Eat even if you don’t feel hungry (trauma can cause over eating or under eating). Try to keep a regular sleeping schedule (trauma can cause oversleeping to not sleeping at all). Avoid prescribed sleep meds if they can be addictive. Try natural drugs like tryptophan. Get on a daily schedule of a time to wake up, eat, and go to bed.

Taking care of your soul is essential to any healing. Those who belong to a church attend it regularly to pray. Those who find a higher power in actions or a place, go there. Be it hiking, doing yoga, the mountains, the ocean etc. Ask for guidance and protection of your loved one. Nothing is off limits.

When I was ready to start healing I decided to start reading a positive daily message in the morning then surrender to my higher power to do his bidding for the day.

3. Take action in something positive! 
a. Fight the isolation of your loved one or others. Volunteer at Kasem Cares.
b. Change tradition and volunteer your family to serve the homeless on Thanksgiving or for Christmas dinner.
c. Take your family to a nursing home on Christmas Day with food or small gifts and visit with the seniors (many have no families or friends, make sure you call ahead and find out the rules)
d. Take a moment around the dinner table for everyone to share a happy or funny story about their missing loved one in honor of them.
e. Tell your story wherever you can. (Having your voice is empowering and healing)
f. Write it to your state politicians and ask for legal change.
g. Start a support group of others who have gone through or are going through the same thing.

You will make it through what you are going through but it takes time, support, a willingness to take care of yourself and positive actions!


Kasem Cares
By Kathy Wright-Brawn