A friend of mine recently told me that he hates the holidays. In fact, he said he loathes them. I asked him why and he shot back, "Because of all the bad memories associated with them!" During the holiday season, his demeanor changes, he sulks and avoids his friends and family. I know several people who dread the holidays and quite honestly, I used to be one of them.
Many walk among us hiding their fears and pain, especially this time of the year. How can you spot these hurting people? There are many signs that are easy to pick up on. They refuse to go to holiday parties, seldom answer their phone or respond to text messages during the holidays. They don't want any gifts and they usually tell you in advance. They make excuses why they can't attend holiday celebrations. Most of us have a hard time recognizing the excuses coming from someone who suffers from the pain associated the holidays.
Over the years, I too have struggled with the Christmas season. My mother was an alcoholic and was difficult to live with especially around the holidays. She struggled with her own demons during Christmas and took it out on my younger sister and me. I never really knew what her issues with Christmas were, but my sister and I suffered during what should have been a magical time of the year for us. Being cursed at was something we both expected and telling us she wished someone would hurt us or take away our Christmas was common. She was so unpredictable. One night she would be OK and then the next she was just plain awful to us. With the cookies and holiday candies spread out on the table sitting next to the lighted Christmas tree, we were told not to eat them because they were for company only. At times these bad memories pop up and put me in a funk.
Not everyone knows how to deal with sadness during the holidays. They live with them from year to year and watch the calendar day by day, wishing the holidays away. I realized that I had to create my own fond memories during the holidays. I had to force myself to do the things I feared most. I didn't want to go to holiday parties, so I had my own. I started with a few close friends and invited them to my house. I had a small tree with lights and small gifts for each of them. I even had some Christmas music playing when they arrived. I have to be honest with you, it was hard to do but I'm so glad I did. When everyone left, I felt as if I faced one of my biggest fears, and sat down in disbelief that "I did it." The first step was the hardest for me, but I was a victor instead of the victim. I overcame the fear of the holidays.
Are you ready to take that leap and address the needless suffering the holidays bring you? The first step is the desire to be a victim of painful memories and stop allowing the holidays to control you. If this If you're ready to start enjoying the holidays again, then you need take the first few steps to healing.
Here's what mine were:
• Forgave and move on. Yes, my mother hurt me but I realized I needed to move on.
• Kept company with healthy people who cared about me.
• Kept looking to my future and not my past. I had to forgive myself.
• Planned a fun evening with family and friends and started a small group and grew it.
• Had a small 12 inch Christmas tree decked out with sparkly lights.
• Played holiday music quietly.
• Looked at the positive interactions I could have with friends and family.
• Planned a short, two-hour holiday party. It was a good place to start.
The first time I planned my holiday event, it went very well. I kept to my game plan and since then it has become a tradition that I now look forward to every year. It was hard at first, kind of like jumping off a diving board for the first time. We need to face our painful memories. I did with mine and now the painful past is, for the most part, a faint memory. Plan to move on and get the victory you need so you can once again, enjoy the upcoming holidays.