Longing for What “Used to Be” During the Holidays

Sometimes we get depressed over the holidays and don’t really know why.  We wander around looking at the decorations and listening to the music and going through a range of emotions that we may or not understand. Maybe it’s only me but I suspect there are others who feel the same way. Maybe we are longing for what “used to be” during the holidays

The past

For me, I remember the anticipation and the preparation. We baked cookies of all kinds to eat and to share with our neighbors and friends—yummy stuff that was different from the things we had during any other time of the year. The house always smelled like a bakery over the few weeks before Christmas and even now being near a bakery gives me “warm fuzzies.” My mother and I shopped together from the time I was old enough to go with her until she was in her late 80s and it was always a special time. We wrapped presents, sometimes in crazy ways to disguise the gifts, and hid them to keep them away from prying eyes. We teased each other about what they were getting and gave each other outrageous hints. The preparation was as much fun as the celebration itself. There was laughter, camaraderie and lots of love.

We were not a religious family so our Christmas centered around the exchange of gifts, and a dinner with as many as we could gather around—family and those who had no place to go—and more food than could fit on the table. As a child, it was all so happy, so magical, so wonderful.

Change begins

When I had my own family I tried to re-create the same kind of Christmas and was able to do so to some extent. Small children always make it fun and their excitement and anticipation are contagious. But it was never quite the same and there was generally a feeling of a let-down after the day was over. It seems obvious that I was longing for Christmas to be the way it “used  to be.”

Now my family is grown and have their own families, some living too far away to join us. They have their own traditions and styles of celebration, as they should. And even if they were here it wouldn’t be the same. It can’t possibly be the same.

Each of us is different now—very different than we were during those growing-up years and raising-our-own- family years. And not only have we changed but society has changed drastically.

Social changes

We have become global now and have entered full bore into the information age. Even in a family gathering, some may be on the cell phone talking or texting through most of the celebration For those of us who didn’t grow up that way, it is strange, rude and exasperating. For those who are growing up now, we are the ones who are strange and exasperating.

If you grew up in a family that was close and loved the holidays you may grieve for those lost times as much as you have grieved for lost loved ones. It’s a grief for the loss of innocence, for the loss of a time we knew, understood and felt safe.  The grief may be over losing control and moving into a time when you are a part of but not in charge of the celebrations. Perhaps it is over losing your youth and getting out of sync with the times. It is the grief of change—a longing for what used to be and can never be again.

Dealing with the grief of change

It is real grief and needs to be dealt with like grieving any other loss. You do that by:

  • understanding what is happening
  • staying busy and participating in what is going on
  • talking about it with others
  • being aware of the feelings we are experiencing
  • finding ways to deal with our feelings
  • being gentle with ourselves

The saying”You can’t go home again” is true of the holidays as well. So let go of your expectations and desire to recreate the past.

Let it go as much as you can.

Participate as fully as you can.

Be in the now and look for the joy—it’s still here. It’s up to you to find it.

Don’t trade “what used to be” for “what might have been.”

Have a wonderful, happy holiday season.

1 Comment
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