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Christmas can be a hard time for some people

Thu 8th Dec 2016

Christmas is not a joyous and happy time for everyone.  When counselling clients before and after the event, I notice that the whole experience has been a stressful one for many. It is common for people to start their counselling sessions around Christmas, not just because of all the strains the holiday can put on relationships, but because for some it might be the first Christmas they are experiencing without that special person in their life.  There might have been a divorce or separation, a partner might have died, and for some it might be the first time the children are not at home for Christmas.


The festive season is thought of as an occasion for family and friends to get together and celebrate, but for those who have lost loved ones it can be a very lonely and dispiriting time.


Are you familiar with that feeling of being in a room and surrounded by people, where everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves, while you are feeling alone and vulnerable because the one you loved most is not there?  Facing these painful experiences can at Christmas be harder than usual as everyone around you makes you feel as if you should be having a good time, when you actually feel just the opposite.  For some, it can seem tempting just to avoid the celebrations all together.


For many it is the reality that we are forced to spend time with people we may not even like, and that can be hard, especially if it leads to arguments and cross words. The dread of spending so much time with people whose company you do not enjoy can lead you to feel anxious and stressed.  Many people find that talking to a counsellor prior to the Christmas and the New Year holidays can help them prepare for difficult and sometimes highly charged situations.


These tense moments can sometimes lead to the breakdown of relationships, and it is not uncommon to see partners separating. If a relationship is already facing difficulties, emotions can become even more fragile over the holidays, leading to outbursts of anger and frustration and painful family splits.


As I pointed out in last year’s Christmas blog, the charity Relate said that their phone lines in January ring more often than at any time throughout the year.  Divorce solicitors say post-Christmas is the busiest time for them. The numbers of suicides rise (especially among men) according to The Samaritans, who take so many more calls over this period than during the rest of the year.


Being single can also be hard for some people at Christmas time.  They look around and see everyone else apparently having a good time and in happy relationships.  There might be feelings of envy because you are alone and not able to share the celebrations with a partner.  Society does appear to put pressure on people to be a couple, and if this isn’t the case then you could feel as if you’ve failed in some way.


We should be vigilant and look out for signs in family and friends at this time of year, as unbeknownst to you they may be suffering and feeling very low.  If you think someone is having problems and if you feel comfortable doing so, you could suggest they consider finding a counsellor to help them through a difficult time.  It is far better to talk through problems rather than trying to deal with them all on your own.


Be aware of how others are feeling and as well as being sympathetic make allowances for them too.  It is hard to know what is going on in someone’s head – especially if they are putting on a cheerful face and pretending that nothing is wrong.


New Year is a time for reflection and this can also be a good time to seek help from a professional.  A counsellor will help you to put things in perspective and assist you in finding the best way forward.  A good counsellor should provide you with a safe, confidential place where you can be listened to in a completely non-judgmental way.  This could really help you through a difficult and painful time – hopefully showing you that there is light at the end of the tunnel.