The holidays aren’t always as happy as we would like for them to be. This is true despite the smiling faces and festive décor that we often see in magazines and on television. There are many reasons why a bittersweet holiday season might be your reality this year. Perhaps your reason looks like this: 

  •  Buying gifts and throwing parties seems impossible because you’re saddled with financial debt due to mounting bills and a reduced work schedule as you take care of a loved one who is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s.
  • You’re exhausted and stuck in a job that leaves you less than satisfied because you can’t afford to lose your medical insurance or the paid time off you’ve accrued after years of service.
  • Your husband passed away this year, and you are lonely and left with the realization that he’ll never again fill the empty chair in the room.
  • Life is changing seemingly quickly, and there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty as your grandmother’s dementia progresses or your best friend begins hospice care.

If you’re unsure about how to get through the holidays and maintain some of the cheer that you’ve enjoyed in years past, Salus Homecare offers a little encouragement and advice to make this time of year a bit easier.

You Are Not Alone

When life throws curve balls your way, it’s easy to feel like you’re on an island and the only person who has ever experienced this kind of stress and pain. Regardless of what you are going through, it’s important to know that you are NOT alone.

In times like this, it is valuable to consider your faith; faith in God. For most of us, during difficult times like these, we yearn for a greater connection to God and when we find it, we find greater strength, greater hope and greater peace. Seek for that and you will find it.

Additionally, local support groups can provide comfort and reassurance for new widows or widowers, the family facing a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or someone who is hurting because of the stressors that come from a serious medical condition. Reaching out to your bereavement counselor or talking to a therapist or spiritual advisor is a great way to find these support groups, connect with them and meet people who are or have been where you are today. 

Connecting with a support group will grant you unique opportunities to better understand important coping skills, learn about how others have made it through this difficult stage in life or simply vent. There really is nothing like knowing that others have been where you are today, and finding your village is a great way to gain a new perspective or simply realize how normal the things you’re experiencing really are. 

A word of advice about finding support – it is sometimes extremely difficult to reach out and search for support when you’re feeling disconnected or isolated because of something that you’re going through in life. So, if you know someone who is in a difficult place this holiday season, take some time to research support groups on their behalf. Reach out to their bereavement counselor and ask them to check in with your loved one if you feel comfortable doing so. Or, just take some time to visit them and let them know that they are not alone. While they might not be immediately receptive to the help, your efforts might be enough to help them find a little peace and contentment, and that just might be the best gift you can give them this holiday season.

It’s Okay to Feel Different

Because of the images we see on television and the stories we hear on social media, we often walk into the holidays expecting them to be a joyous time of year. Sometimes, it’s necessary to reframe those expectations a little so that you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

If your mom isn’t around to make the holidays pies or your dad’s exuberant laugh won’t fill the room this year because of a serious medical condition, your experiences will be different than it was in years past. That is okay. Thinking about this ahead of time can help you feel grateful; grateful for the blessing of having had those experiences with those you love. Treasure them and consider what you might do or how you might react. This can help you to avoid a lot of disappointment and heartache.

Honoring Your Loved One

If your loved one recently passed or is facing a serious medical condition that prevents them from being as present in your celebrations, honor them in some way to help make your holidays feel a little brighter.

Here are some ideas:

  • Choose your loved one’s favorite dish, and make sure it’s present on your Thanksgiving table.
  • Pray together, ask for comfort and give thanks.
  • Go around the table and ask all of your guests to make a special toast in your loved one’s honor or memory. 
  • Create a playlist of holiday songs that remind you of your loved one’s happiest times.
  • Lay down a special tablecloth and fabric markers, and ask all of your guests to write down a favorite memory or thought about your loved one.
  • If your family partakes in holiday blessings, add one of your loved one’s favorite lyrics, quotes or poems to the blessing.
  • Give monetarily or even some of your time to a charity in your loved one’s name. If your loved one was in hospice care, perhaps commit to giving a few hours in volunteer service to that organization.  
  • If you’ve lost a loved one this year, purchase a meaningful gift for them, wrap it, and give it to someone who is less fortunate. 
  • Make holiday ornaments with family and friends using images or items that remind you of your loved one. Hang them in a special place when you put up your tree. 
  • Add an extra plate to the holiday table to symbolize your loved one’s presence.
  • Start a holiday tradition of lighting a fire, writing down your regrets from the past year and then throwing the notes into the flames to symbolize new beginnings.

Change Your Plans

Give yourself permission to do something completely different if that feels like the right choice, right now. Instead of the normal Thanksgiving feast, keep things simple and enjoy pizza or sandwiches while you binge watch your favorite television shows. Instead of visiting friends, take a ride to the mountains and watch the leaves change. Abandon traditions that aren’t working for you right now (and know it’s okay to pick them back up in the future too). Celebrate on a random day if the date of the actual holiday feels a little too tough.

While it’s okay to avoid celebrations or celebrate in a different way this year, try not to do everything all by yourself. Human connections are so important, and isolation puts you at risk of feeling increasingly pessimistic, anxious or depressed. The act of isolating yourself can also quickly snowball, increasing the risk that you’ll remain isolated. This often complicates and lengthens the healing process. If you’re not sure how to be around others or find a way to celebrate, it might be a good time to reach out to your support group or bereavement counselor for some help.

Remember the Real Reason for the Season

Especially when you’re grieving, it’s important to consider what the holidays are really about. This time of year is about spending time with family, making memories, remembering your loved ones and celebrating the joy that life brings. For many of us, religious beliefs are the reason for the season, making worship and fellowship pivotal parts of holiday celebrations.

If you’re feeling sad, alone or lost through the festivities, try to focus on the real reasons why you celebrate and what the holidays represent at their very core. While your loved one may be ill or perhaps has even passed away, there’s still so many people who love you and plenty of memories still to be made. It’s not necessary to expend all your energy shopping for expensive gifts, making lavish meals or hosting fancy parties. Honoring your loved one in some way, even if that way is small, can become a new tradition and even something you’ll eventually look forward to. That is truly what the holidays are all about. It’s also what your loved one would want for you.

Happy Holidays from Salus

However you decide to celebrate, Salus extends the warmest wishes for happiness to you and yours this holiday season. We thank you for choosing us over the past year to support you or your loved one. We value each of you as a part of our home care, home health, palliative care or hospice care family.

In closing, remember that we’re always here to help. Whether you’re struggling to find joy this holiday season, or the challenges of the new year hit you head on, contact us anytime with questions or if you need support.