Opinion > Star Staff
December: That wonderful, terrible month
By Doug Smith, Reminders for the Journey
I wrote this column eight years ago, but think it is appropriate for any December. I see people in emotional pain throughout the year in my counseling practice, but I guarantee that the pain/suffering index goes up in December.
We have various days, weeks and months of the year that are supposed to indicate a particular emphasis. Examples abound, such as Secretaries Week, Father's Day, Independence Day, Black Studies Month or National Quit Smoking Day. I want to suggest another one: December: Month for Feeling Really Good or Feeling Really Bad.
Now, I will admit that if we are going to make this into a national or global movement, we will have to reduce the title somewhat and make it more sophisticated, but if there were an "emotional month of the year," it would have to be December. For many people, at least in Western culture, the holiday season is filled with warmth, family, parties with friends, gifts and giving, as well as deep gratitude. It is a season for vivid colors of red, green and blue, with no need for subtlety. And for a great number of children, there is nothing quite so magical as Christmas.
Yet, before we get too carried away, December is also probably the most emotionally devastating season of the year for many others. If you or your loved ones are experiencing emotional pain, this month seems only to magnify it. I know at least five families in the area who will experience Christmas for the first time minus a parent due to death. None of them are looking forward to this time. The first holiday season experiencing the loss of a loved one - be it through divorce, death or any other kind of abandonment, or if one of your loved ones is away due to duty with the armed forces - is very difficult, and it is interesting to me that it seems to happen more in December than in any other month.
Or maybe it just seems that way because the absence is so obvious. This reflects my own experience, as December 1970 was one of the most painful times in my life. Yet, ironically, January of 1971 marked the beginning of a new life for me, one that was assisted fabulously by being lucky enough to enter into counseling for myself. I was even luckier that I met a man who was skillful at helping me grow. Without that painful December, I would have never had that bountiful January, plus many months and years that followed it.
Even the climate in December is representative of my thesis. There is nothing quite as refreshing as a warm day of sunshine in December with no clouds or wind, when the temperature in our area ranges from 45 to near 70. And then we have some days that are overcast, damp and cold, or so it seems based on our Southern weather standards. My wife's college roommate, Deb, who lives in Madison, Wis., just laughs at me when I tell her it is really cold here as it got to 32 degrees last night.
My basic reminder here is that we don't need to assume that just because it is a wonderful month for us, it is that way for everyone else. Perhaps we can deal with this better by getting outside of ourselves and reaching out - or digging a little deeper - to support and care for those for whom December is dreadful. The old Merle Haggard song, "If we make it through December," is reality for lots of folks.
Doug Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Lewisville. Contact him at 972-436-6227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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