At a time when everyone else is cheerful and focusing on buying the perfect gift, some are concerned with their loved one and focusing on getting through the day. The end of life doesn’t abide by a calendar, and there is never an ‘appropriate time’ to face the decisions and feelings that come with it. Whether you are a caregiver, a family member, or an interdisciplinary team member, the holidays are a tough time to cope, but here are a few ways to make it through:
Be open to traditions: Old & New
‘Tis the season for traditions! If you have them, enjoy them and still celebrate them. Accept that they may not feel or be 100% perfect, and perhaps they change slightly, but honoring them is what counts. Don’t have holiday traditions? No time like the present to create new ones. The new traditions can be inspired by the loved one you are memorializing, or something just for fun.
Give through your grief
Sometimes giving to others allows us to put less focus on ourselves and our situation—in a good way! Giving for the holidays isn’t new, but if you haven’t adopted the practice yet, you can by donating to organizations that you believe in or that your loved one is/was passionate about. Donating also makes great Christmas gifts instead of buying gifts.
You don’t just have to give money though, time is just as precious. Consider volunteering places around Christmas that are in extra need for the holidays or winter.
- Food: Make it, gather around it, celebrate it
Nothing says “holidays” like food. If you have a traditional dish or one that was passed down, make it and even offer to teach others how to. Our memories can be sparked by the five senses, and food can use multiple senses at once!
Not a cook? Maybe your family has a tradition of going out to eat to a local place or grabbing a certain brand of goodies from the store. Regardless of how you do food, gather together, that’s what it really is all about.
Don’t ignore “normal”, or your feelings
Emotions can flood your system this time of year, especially when dealing with an end of life situation. Among those feelings can be guilt, one that is hard to shake and creates inner turmoil. Don’t ever feel guilty about carrying on with a “normal” life or routine. As we at Hosparus Health sometimes say, the end of life is part of living, just like birth. Life should be honored and celebrated, and living your life should continue in respect to that.
Lastly, allow your feelings to happen. Don’t bottle them up. Letting your feelings show or be voiced is part of the grieving process and will help in the long run. Feel your feelings as they come, even if that feeling is “happy.”
Caregivers and professionals, this one is especially for you. It is nearly impossible for one to take care of someone if you don’t take care of yourself. Sleeping and eating well may sound like a simple task, but when dealing with the end of life coupled with the holiday season it can prove to be difficult. Destressing is also important in self-care and can be done by finding an activity that relaxes you. The activity may be working out, pampering one’s self, or even reading. If you need help to accomplish these tasks, ask for it. Never feel guilty about putting your health first so you can in turn help others.
Seek external help
The stigma that surrounds counseling is changing, and it’s about time! Seeking help through a counselor, chaplain, or even life coach is a brave step to bettering yourself and your situation. If you feel the need to talk to someone, or to make sense of your thoughts and feelings, there are many resources out there to help, from an individual counselor to support groups.
(Hosparus Health grief counseling center offers counseling before and after a death, for family members, kids, and even employees. To learn more visit HosparusHealth.org/griefcenter or call 502-456-5451.)