Christmas past & present
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Diane Stainton MA, Reg MBACP (Accredited)
8th December, 20130 Comments
As Christmas approaches, panic begins to set in for many of us: Have I bought presents everyone will like? Have I remembered to check that the lights from last year work? Will the turkey be too big, or too small to feed everyone? How am I going to keep Grandad away from the brandy? Has the trifle set? Can I keep all the balls spinning?
Then when the big day arrives and we are surrounded by our family and friends, you wonder why you are feeling stressed and exhausted. Why can't Christmas be like it looks on the Christmas cards and T.V.? Why can't it be perfect like it was when we were little? (It was, wasn't it?) Remember those past Christmases, full of Father Christmas and mince pies, stockings and Christmas trees, mistletoe and presents - they were perfect - weren't they? Or were they? For lots of people, Christmas Past only recalls rows and fighting, shouting and tears or missed loved ones no longer here. For them the memories of Christmas Past maybe pushed away (deliberately or unconsciously), and the goal becomes to make Christmas Present perfect.
However, real-life is not perfect and nor are we, our families or loved ones. So, it might be worth remembering that the first step to having a good time around the holiday, is to realise there may be potential conflict and that it is normal. Laughing about past Christmas events, can be a great way to break the ice or diffuse tensions if things are beginning to go downhill. Getting people to talk about the funniest or most embarrassing thing that happened last Christmas, can be a life-saver!
During Christmas Present, we are often also saddened by the memories of Christmases Past, and the loved ones who are no longer with us. If this is the first Christmas without the loved one, then feeling lonely, scared, lost, angry and depressed all at once or separately is normal. It may be particularly painful, to remember the moments of another Christmas Past that we shared with that person - maybe decorating the tree, or wrapping presents - or the things we didn't get to say or do. It may help to talk about these memories with those around. Take the opportunity of having family and friends around that Christmas Present may provide, to talk about your loved one and the stories about them you can recall.
As Charles Dickens showed us in "A Christmas Carol", Christmas is not just a time for celebration and feasting, but it is also a time when we find ourselves reflecting on Christmas Past, in the light of Christmas Present and perhaps as a result, resolving to make changes for the future. This may be the time to talk to a counsellor who may be able to help you with this.
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