Trish Summerhayes

Creating Christmas Spirit

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I have just sold my private home care business after spending a lifetime nursing and caring for others. During that time I have also been a wife, a mother and a grandmother. I was a "ban the bomber" in London in the sixties and a part of the back to earth movement of the seventies here on Vancouver Island. These experiences have made me who I am. I am me. I am an Island Woman.

Christmas … portrayed in folklore, the media and commercial hype as a time of peace, happiness and goodwill. Unfortunately, the reality is that for many people, the reverse is true; it is a time of loneliness, grief and regret. The suicide rate increases over the Christmas holiday period. Why should this be so? For some, this will be the first Christmas they will be without a spouse, a child or a loved one. For others, it triggers memories of Christmas past. For me, December 23rd brings back the pain of my father dying when I was 15 years old.

The unrelenting commercial pressure at this time of year brings unbelievable pain for those on limited incomes. How do you explain to a young child that you barely have enough money for rent and food, much less Christmas presents? It becomes an economic nightmare for many.

It shouldn’t and needn’t be that way, and I would like to thank Anne Morrison for the article below, offering insight and help on some of the issues experienced during the Christmas season. Above all, remember that a smile, a hug and a willingness to listen would the finest gift of all to so many people. Please reach out to the lonely and the shut-ins in your neighbourhood.

May I also take this time to wish you all peace for the Christmas season.

Patricia Summerhayes
Island Woman Magazine.

P.S. This article, as is, was first published on Island Woman Magazine on December 9th 2014. Like all good articles/writings  it has stood the test of time. It is as relevant today as it was then, probably more so.
Thank you Anne.

The following article was printed in the December 2014 issue of the Chemainus Valley Courier.



I recently overheard a woman excitedly describe how the days before Christmas bring her the most joy. The music, twinkling lights, and beautiful Christmas decorations are much more fulfilling than the unrealistic expectations that get piled on to Christmas Day.

And so she decided years ago to emphasize such magical pre-Christmas moments rather than get way-laid with consumerism, overspending, or unnecessarily stressful Christmas gatherings.

It takes intentional pre-planning to create enough space in our lives to taste the Christmas spirit and not get sidetracked by the pull of unresolved issues or other life stresses. The holidays can conjure up old unhappy family themes, deep loss and sorrow, or gatherings with strained relationships.

We are often very tender at this time of year, sometimes fragile, and certainly extra sensitive. We yearn to feel a sense of belonging, love, and connection with others.

How can we create our own Christmas Spirit during such potentially stressful times? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Decide how you want to celebrate Christmas this year. Make it just as you want it to be. Free yourself of traditions and expectations which do not fit.

 2.Plan and agree with family members and/or close friends where you will go, what presents you will buy, what sort of food you will have and how it will be offered.

 3. Make a Christmas budget and stick with it.

4. Take care of yourself. Eat right and control your alcohol. Pace your socializing so that you do not exhaust yourself.

5. Start your shopping early and shop Chemainus! Give yourself the breathing room to make each purchase very personal.

6. Pamper yourself every day – a good read, music, a nature walk, tea witha friend, or visit someone who is isolated or lonely.

7. Have realistic expectations of family and friends. Create a strategy for breaking any negative or unhealthy communication patterns.

8. Share any concerns with a friend or therapist.

9. Relax and enjoy the whole Christmas period – the precious daysleading up to Christmas and the replenishing days that follow.

10. If you find you are persistently in a low mood, or immobilized by stress and anxiety, seek out a friend or counsellor who can provide a soft landing for your sadness. You do not have to carry it alone!


Wishing you all peace within, peace between, and peace amongst…especially during this holiday period.

Anne - photo 2017Anne Morrison, MSW, RSW, RMFT, is a professional counsellor and therapist registered with the BC College of Social Workers and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Her private practice focuses on personal, relationship and family healing.  Anne can be reached at 250 324 5521 or  Click here for her webpage.



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