It is the Most Wonderful Time of Year . . . Or is It?

The holiday season has officially arrived.  As Christmas tunes hang in the air and shoppers bustle to and from different stores, many of us find ourselves conflicted.  The basic conflict tends to be around our perception that this is supposed to be a joyful, fun, maybe even a magical time of the year.  Yet, many people end up feeling miserable and wonder, “What is wrong with me?” We are in a funk that we cannot seem to shake and we do not know why.  Most of us can figure out what irks us about the holidays if we look within ourselves and listen to ourselves hard enough.  Often, our dreams can give us a clue about the direction we need to head in with our self-exploration.

I grew up in a family where there were a lot of old people.  When I was a young child the holidays were a lot of fun.  We would all go over to my grandparents’ house where there would be a lot of people, good food, and stimulating (and often amusing) conversation.  As the years went by people started to die.  By the time I was in my early teenage years I remember thinking (as I set one less place setting than the year before) that at this point more members of my family were dead than living.  Perhaps more than any other time of the year the holidays remind us of the people we have lost.  In part, this is because for some families the holidays are the one time when we all come together.  It is weird but it is easy to forget that someone is dead when we do not see them all of the time.  Of course, we know intellectually that they are dead but sometimes there is a part of us that believes or wishes that the deceased person is carrying on his or her life somewhere apart from us.  When that person fails to show up for the holiday gathering, that he or she would have never missed, it is a poignant reminder that he or she is dead.

Holidays also seem to encourage reminiscing by their very nature.  It is not only Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol that has ghosts of Christmas Past.  We all have “ghosts” that lurk in our unconscious.  Sometimes it is the remembrance of an unpleasant Christmas that is influencing our feelings, while at other times it is a longing to be able to go back to the Christmases of our childhood, early adulthood, or even last year, to be able to visit with those people whom we love but who are no longer with us, well no longer with us physically anyhow.  Once we have been deeply touched by someone it is impossible to ever be really separated from them; they live on in us in so many ways, in what they have taught us, in our memories, and in our dreams, to name a few.

Over the next several weeks I am going to make some suggestions for “getting through” the holidays during particularly difficult years but I want to hear your suggestions as well.  What has your experience been with “the most wonderful time of the year?” What helps you to get through the holidays?

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10 Responses to It is the Most Wonderful Time of Year . . . Or is It?

  1. Meredith Staples says:

    Love it! Looking forward to future posts.

  2. Edvard Kusaksizyan says:

    Hey Doc,
    Love to read your articles. It is hard to live with the losses and not to think about them. But, I believe that we should also focus to other people lives as much as our own. Instead to keep thinking only about our own world, we should listen other people’s experiences and learn.
    Yes, we will feel alone during the special seasons and holidays no matter what, but we should always remember, human race has a sad story, we all have to complete our days and leave the earth. The life is progressing in every second. We have no choice but going forward. Whoever struggles with the step will suffer. We must keep our emotions as an human however we must also be rational to have a health mind and body. Our mission is to balance our life like the seasons.

    • admin says:

      Hi Edvard,

      Thanks for taking the time to write. I agree that it is a fine balance between mourning our losses and living life! I hope to hear more from you soon!

  3. Kathleen says:

    What’s up Doc?

    Great blog thus far. I think it’s a great idea offering suggestions to help people in mourning get through the holidays. It is such a special time of year that we should all be able to enjoy. I know a handful of people who could benefit from such suggestions. Keep them coming!


  4. LML says:

    “Ever onward” is a motto that often helps me. And might I add that the start of this themed blog comes at the hardest time of year in terms of survival; I have already heard of a few suicides. Thank you for beginning this dialogue- I look forward to more of it.

    • admin says:

      Hi LML:

      Thanks for your suggestion! I think that having a motto that we can repeat to ourselves during times of stress is a great coping mechanism. Stay in touch. Let me know how the holiday season goes for you.

  5. maureen welsh says:

    I admire your gentle treatment of such a difficult topic. Although painful to read, because in the short run it’s so much more comfortable to avoid thinking about death, your blog opens up for discussion something most of us don’t deal with until forced to do so…for obvious reasons. When it comes to young children who have little choice but to rely upon adults to help them through the loss of a parent, your book is sure to become Oprah material.

    One comment and/or question. I know from my own research with adults, there is significantly more benefit to putting painful experiences into words – whether through writing or speaking – than to express emotion by way of dance, or art, or exercise. I wonder whether you think this would also hold true for children.

    • admin says:

      Hi Maureen,

      Thanks for commenting! I am glad that you brought up the benefit of putting painful experiences into words. I believe that if children are old enough to speak it is more beneficial to approach working with them through using words. This does not mean that I will not use toys or art supplies to help them to express themselves, however, those materials are more adjuncts to help the child to put his or her thoughts and feelings into words. In fact, in a later chapter of my book, Never Alone, I speak about how crucial it is that adults provide an outlet for children to express their feelings when their parents die. Children need the help of adults to be able to make sense of their feelings and thereby mourn. If they do not have a “safe place” to process their loss, they could end up a long way away from where they began emotionally prior to their parents death.

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