Letting go of the past

“Amber has been with us four Christmases,” remarked my daughter last Friday evening as we were about to open our gifts.
And we all smiled as Amber opened her gifts. She loved her new toy, but most of her gifts were bite-sized pieces of chicken wrapped in tissue paper.
She had been told to “leave it,” so she sat under the Christmas tree patiently waiting to be told “take.”
As we enjoyed Amber, we talked about last Christmas when our sweet, fun-loving Nina was still alive, and how sad it was to lose her this year.
That’s the way Christmas often is–fun and celebration juxtaposed with poignancy.
As a young child, I loved Christmas. Santa often gave me dolls. Big dolls and little dolls, and dolls with real hair.
Somehow, I never saw Santa. But I knew he had been there because he spilled nuts all the way from the Christmas tree to the front door.
As a teenager, I loved caroling. One Christmas Eve, we went to midnight mass in the majestic Catholic church. Then, with teenage enthusiasm, we caroled until 4 a.m.
But the fun went out of the holiday in 1958 when my caring, funny, wonderful father died just before Christmas.
In our grief, we forgot to cover his poinsettia as we walked out of the hospital into the bitter New York winter. As the plant’s leaves and flowers curled up and died, I felt like the poinsettia.
I was sure our family would never be happy again. But wonder of wonders, we had a beautiful, poignant Christmas!
My brother and sister-in-law lived 200 miles away in Rochester at the time while my husband and I lived 2,000 miles away in western Canada. But for that one holy day, we all enjoyed Christmas with my mother.
We exchanged gifts, shared delicious food, and had good conversation. And we even laughed a little.
Letting go of the past is hard, but essential.
At this transition time of the year, it is important to remind ourselves to move on. But how do we let go of the regrets, the guilt, the grief, and the happy and sad memories that hold us back?
Here is some advice I gleaned from readings last weekend:
1). Accept the fact that there’s nothing you can do to change the past.
Death is final. Even mistakes cannot be undone.
So let go. Don’t regret. Live in the present!
2). Learn from your past. Care for the people in your life now. Some day, they also will be gone.
Try not to make the same mistakes again.
3). If you like to record your thoughts, try journaling. Be honest with yourself. Pour your heart out. Forgive yourself.
You’ll be surprised how much it can help.
4). Trust the healing of time. Remember, one day you will be able to laugh again.
5). Make new friends and keep up with your old friends. Explore new interests. Volunteer.
Keep yourself occupied. To let go of the past, look in new directions.
And as you face 2011, remember this quote from Wayne Dyer: “Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last.
“The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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