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Ghosts of Holidays Past

While finishing the last touches of decorating, buying and wrapping presents, we might experience feelings of sadness and depression instead of happiness.

My last blog spoke to how losses can impact our Christmas.  Those losses include pets that were a major part of our families.

It isn’t just recent losses that can influence our feelings.Holidays remind us of magical childhood moments when we were spellbound over lights and the promise of unwrapping that special present we wanted more than anything.

But holidays also remind us of strained relationships, broken promises and a past filled with pain and disappointment.  It can remind us of a childhood where the dreams of a happy family were constantly shattered.

When painful emotions from the past surface, we often medicate ourselves with drugs or alcohol or endless shopping sprees to dull the ache. We lose ourselves in parties so we don’t have to feel. But deep inside a tiny voice pleads, “I am tired of running away and feeling sad. I want to feel peace and happiness. I want to experience that childlike wonder of expectation and anticipation this Christmas.”

How do we get beyond painful feelings that are triggered this time of year?

  1. Allow yourself to feel. Walling off, pushing away or trying to contain your past can be stressful and exhausting. Only when painful issues are faced directly can we be free from their grip. If you continue to experience intrusive troubling emotions from your past, gift yourself time with a good therapist who can help you work through the pain.
  2. Acceptance. The losses from our past often continue to haunt us because we have not accepted them. Acceptance stops the cycle of resistance, resentment, anger and helplessness.   While the losses in our life will always be a defining part of who we are, moving through the grief allows painful memories to heal.
  3. Let Go. Forgiveness allows you to let go of resentments, anger and bitterness. It acknowledges that life may be unfair, but hanging on to our grievances only hurts me. Holding onto resentment is corrosive and toxic.  Forgiveness allows us to get past the hurt and allows us to make peace with a bitter past.  We can choose to hang onto hatred or replace it with meaningful and productive thoughts and actions.
  4. Focus on blessings. Even in the darkest of times when we are struggling to survive, there are things to be thankful for. Looking for things to be grateful for and focusing on blessings changes our brain chemistry allowing us to feel differently. Thankfulness reframes our outlook and removes us from victim mode.
  5. Reach out. If you are struggling, reach out to a friend or become part of a support group, especially if your losses are current.  Reaching out to others reminds us we are not alone. Become aware of others who are going through tough times and reach out to them with a kind word and understanding. When we reach out to others we feel better. It puts a new perspective on our own troubles. A smile and empathy for the frazzled clerk, choosing not to get angry or grumpy when standing in long lines, giving grace to others who are having a tough day are small ways we can reach out that also enriches our lives.
  6. Stay in the here and now. When you become aware your thoughts are constantly tuning into the negative, tell yourself “stop.” Listening to old negative messages from the past is a habit.  Push the stop button on that old tape and replace with a constructive message.  It can be an affirmation that says, Yes I can, or God will see me through this, or I refuse to live in the past, I can choose to create a positive life, or I choose to see the good as well as the bad, or I will be okay. Yes I can” is a mantra I use when life gets me down that completely reverses my thinking.  And the second is, God loves me and I am never alone.

Christmas is a time to rejoice in a new beginning. It is the time a Savior was born.  He came because He loves us.  In Him we find the peace and healing that our heart longs for. Reach out and take His healing grace and allow Him to be a part of this holiday season and your life.

Marlene Anderson


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