the Hauntings of Past Christmases

thTT2XH2C2I have tried to write a number of posts over the Christmas holiday, but scraped each one, fearing they might either bore or depress people during the festivities.

I have had a nice pleasant Christmas, but a low mood is customary at this time of year and has been for as far back as I can remember. In previous years, I might have blocked it out with the help of mind-numbing substances. This year, I am identifying those festive-emotions as disappointment and loss.

In my short experience of psychotherapy, something very powerful happens when we connect a problem in the present moment to where it originates in the past.

All of this started in childhood, and hindsight can see how childish and immature these experiences really are. Nonetheless, that familiar sense of disappointment and loss is as powerful today as it felt back then and no logic or adult thinking can change this.

The holiday periods can be one of the worst times for a dysfunctional family. The atmosphere was never a bundle of laughs at the best of times, but when Dad was off work, more tensions, bickering and arguing ensued.

My sister and I didn’t get much as children. Birthdays were usually gifts of clothes or shoes. Cakes and parties were out of the question. Christmas presents meant a great deal, so I would hate for any of this to sound like I was an ungrateful little brat.

Every child is excited leading up to Christmas day. We plead for particular toys and wish for even better. We read the stories and watch the movies of happy families sharing in a joyful time of year. From an early age, I sensed my own family didn’t quite meet the mark.

Our parents love and giving always came from a distance, so they put our presents by our bedside sometime during Christmas Eve night. In the early days, when sis and I shared a room, we would quietly look through our presents with strict instructions not to wake Mum and Dad. Later, when we had our separate rooms, we would go through our presents alone. If my behaviour hadn’t been up to scratch that year, that would reflect on what I got.

Mum and Dad did not stay in bed long. Christmas dinner needed prepared in time forth90QOF1O2 the other dysfunctional family members to arrive. Mum would stress over preparations, Dad always got in the way, and an almighty row would erupt. They were guilty of taking their rage out on their children, so bickering was always a stressful time.

One year I made a big mistake of trying to get everyone into the festive spirits. I jovially said, “Cheer up.”

I thought Dad was about to blow a gasket. He turned bright red as his enormous hand landed hard across my face, “We are bloody cheery,” he frothed at the mouth.

Mum piped in, “You always expects us to be swinging from the chandelier. Give you the moon and the stars and you still wouldn’t be happy… “

As I write, childhood Christmases flit in and out of conscious memory like a reel of flashback images. Each one of them possesses a familiar sense of loss that seeps through into my adult-Christmases today.

The loss is for the sense of family I never did have and the bonding with parents that would never exist. It is for the love, connection, and togetherness that are still amiss today.

I thought about them on Christmas day. My nephews grown into young men without ever knowing their Uncle to be a part of their family unit, gathering each year to share a meal and Christmas gifts… with Mum and Dad still bickering in the background.

thBWG5D265One day I will be free to enjoy this season without being haunted by past Christmases.

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27 thoughts on “the Hauntings of Past Christmases

  1. mandy

    So many will relate to this post, Cat. The never-ending ruminating about Christmas past. Until this year, I truly never believed it could be different. I better “knock wood” and not take it for granted that it won’t return, but for this year, I am grateful it was different. I had to go away during the holiday to make sure my environment was different–the first time. I think speaking out as adults, the pain we still feel and remember, is so important. It should be heard and read by all new parents. Forget the shelves and shelves of parenting books on how to make your baby smarter. How about “How to love your child and not leaving lingering memories of abuse” ? I hope one day to gather those who have a disconnect from their families at holiday time, share a meal, and recognize we are not alone. Maybe you’ll join us. ♥

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      1. mandy

        Cat, with how far you’ve come in a year, I have no doubt that in another year you’ll hardly recognize the old you. I already don’t recognize our old selves. And I love it! 🙂

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  2. Priceless Joy

    It truly hurts me when I read about the Christmas’ of your past. That would leave a huge hole in my heart and I understand why it does in yours. Cat, you have the chance to change that. Start creating a Christmas/Holiday tradition that is all yours, and yours alone. Create that Christmas you have always wanted. Invite friends that have no where to go and exchange gifts. You could even draw names so no one would have to buy a lot of unaffordable gifts. Start being that person you wish your parents would have been. You have so much love and goodness in you that I have no doubt you can create something very special and satisfying. I look forward to hearing about it next Christmas! If at first it is difficult for you to be that person you wish your parents had been, that’s okay, you just “fake it until you make it.”

    Happy New Year Cat!! I hope your 2015 is filled with the best and most wonderful of everything.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Joy… Thank you for your comment. This Christmas was certainly better than last and I have every confidence that – through therapy and wonderful supportive blogging-chums – I will be able to turn this around in the future.

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    2. Sharon Alison Butt

      This is great advice. I especially like ‘start being the person you wish your parents had been.’ That would be so rewarding. The founder of Compassion, Wes Stafford did that aftet being abused as a child, not by parents but so called missionaries who were supposed to look after him. He now looks after millions of needy kids. It’s true, in your own time, and with God’s help, you have so much to give. X

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  3. Eric Tonningsen

    Never mind “one day” Cat. Make it today! While I applaud your continued self-awareness and growth, I sense you re anchored in the past… a space in which you do not thrive. Part of recovery in my humble opinion, is about acknowledging the present moment — where all of us are right now. And then charting a desired course forward. Therapy serves a purpose yet it can also mire people in their past. Perhaps you might be open to embracing who you are now, trusting yourself, and stepping into life as it is and can be for you. I feel for you yet I know in my heart (and trained mind) that you are ready to ground yourself where you are right now, whole and wanting to grow. Wishing you strength and boldness to choose and act in the present and awaken to what’s awaiting you. You “can” do this without abandoning those who support you. But please, consider not dwelling. Rather, soaring. 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Eric… Thank you for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree about recovery acknowledging the present moment. It’s something we are encouraged to do in therapy. However, as you know, therapy is also about making peace with the past. Maybe it’s about striking a happy balance.
      Your comments always remind me to pay more attention to anchoring myself in the present moment. Admittedly, this has been a major hurdle, but I am working towards that goal… I just need to off load some excess baggage first 😉

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  4. RisingSong

    Yes, you will Cat, and I don’t think it will be long. This year for me has been about starting new traditions and making new memories to replace the very painful ones. This you can do also. Make it new with new (or old) friends the way you feel it should be.

    You’ve come such a long way. I can’t wait to see where 2015 takes you!

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    1. Cat Post author

      I do believe future Christmases will be different. Thank you for your vote of confidence. Apparently the last person to recognise change in therapy is usually the client 😉 Hope you’re doing okay

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  5. sensuousamberville

    Christmas is tradition. The memories are such a strong part of this. Expectations are also a part of Christmas, the wishing and dreaming of often unreasonable possibilities, dreams also amplify this, building excitement with expectations of magic. Family movies showing a perfect world, where elves wiggle their ears and magic happens… but…

    So your memories of Christmas are filled with disappointment, this is a part of your tradition now, understandably so. I don’t know if you could intrude on your nephews, to share the season with them, perhaps so? But a change up of tradition, to do something radically different, to start new traditions, new memories Cat. To exorcise those hauntings, would make the season special for you again.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Amber… I do believe future Christmas time will evolve into something new. Just by talking in therapy and writing this post, I have already exorcised most of those Crimbo demons. Here’s to new traditions! 😉

      Thank you, Amber

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  6. Glynis Jolly

    You say you didn’t bond, but you had your sister. Obviously, your Christmases have been horrible, not doubt about that. Please don’t dismiss the little bit of good that was there though.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Funny you should say that, Glynis, since writing this post, I have been remembering some of the better times. Sometimes the nasty memories block out the good.

      Thank you for your comment

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    2. Sharon Alison Butt

      I don’t think that Cat is dimissing anything Glynis, just sharing his heart and reliving painful memories. I’m sure he appreciates his sister very much. But in times of trauma, the bad stands out so far beyond the good. X

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  7. manyofus1980

    You were brave to write this. I’m sorry xmas was so hard for you. Your right though. Past Xmases take time to get over. I hope next year will be better for you. xo ❤

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  8. Sharon Alison Butt

    I’m so glad you took the courage to write it and… I don’t think that any of your followers find you depressing or boring. Life goes on and it’s just a day. It has truly been over-rated by the media etc, and so much pressure is on people to feel a certain way on Christmas Day. Like Mother’s Day, Valentines Day & Father’s Day I think there are more folk who ate affected negatively by these celebrations than those who are lucky enough to be able to participate in these celebrations. I hope that one day, you will have the opportunity to feel loved by your heavenly father as he runs to you with open arms and welcomes you into the family you’ve always dreamed of having. One with no selfisness, violence, negativity, hatred, apathy and pain. One to which you deserve to belong to and has been prepared for you before you were even conceived.

    I am so grateful for all your precious writings, thoughts, opinions, musings, and for sharing your deepest fears, memories and thoughts with us over the year. May you continually have the strength to do so, to open our eyes to your world. You are helping millions, even if they are not yet reading your blog. x

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, Sharon, it always feels good to know when someone totally understands. Your support is greatly appreciated and thank you for showing such an interest in my posts.

      Wishing you peace and health for 2015!

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