As the world gears up for the holiday festivities I ask you please, remember to be both mindful and gentle with those who have loved ones who are ill, or have passed away this year.
The traditions of holidays are typically not experiences we celebrate alone. Over the years our rituals became institutions, providing our hearts and souls with familial comfort. Yes, of course, angst and disparaging experiences have often tagged along, perhaps frustration and hilarity too! Yet all are part of the automatic compass we rely on annually. We don’t necessarily acknowledge them all consciously, but unconsciously, our traditions become our emotional cornerstones.
When terminal illness blankets our existence, these rituals become complicated as we try to manipulate them to honor our loved ones who may not have the same abilities or flexibilities they once enjoyed. We may need to adopt new versions of our traditions or create a new memory within the parameters defined by current circumstances.
As you prepare to visit and attend gatherings, take a moment, and consider those who may be in rough spots caring for someone who is on hospice service, or struggling to appear okay. Offer to run errands, shop, or sit with their loved one so they can get out for a moment. Make a meal. Bring over a cup of hot deliciousness and just be with them. Listen. Handle the curbside garbage. Help with holiday decorations. Offer a magical drive to enjoy holiday lights. Kindness doesn’t need to be monumental. The smallest of gestures can hold the utmost significance. Acknowledgement and validation alone can render profound comfort.
Remember to include and pay special attention to those who will be navigating their first holiday without their partner. It can be awkward and excruciating for everyone. Be gentle; stay the course – you will make a difference. Be there for parents or besties so they aren’t alone for a holiday. Don’t pick this year to do a destination holiday without them. When you must leave them, arrange for someone appropriate and comfortable to invite them to join their holiday. It is THEIR choice to join or not, but either way, it’s reassuring to be asked.
When people who are long-term care givers lose their loved ones, they also lose their (immediate) purpose. That loss becomes a hole that grows during celebrations. When a couple becomes a single, knowing what to do and how to be alone becomes something we must learn. It’s new territory. Instead of forging forward, we may retreat.
We all need purpose to thrive. How can we provide even an inkling of that to others? Consider what may work for your situation and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. Inclusion is key. When you simply offer, without expectations or pressure, that safe emotional environment of friendly and familiar may be exactly what they need.
Whatever your circumstance, be mindful of others, generous of spirit and willing to adapt as/if needed. When the going gets rough, it’s the act of looking out for others that softens the load of our own difficulties while we support the challenges and progress of others.
May your holidays be filled with peace and the joys that comfort your soul. May the new year bring unimagined and wonderful possibilities, good health, and the strength of spirit to conquer whatever bumps in the road life delivers.
Elaine Poker-Yount, CDP is Director of Care Management for Visiting Angels East Valley
Reach her at 480-833-8247 or firstname.lastname@example.org