“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…” Or maybe not?
It’s that time of year again, as we look to our calendars and see the holidays approaching. Holidays often focus on traditions, family, friends, food, giving, and special memories. For some, the thoughts of the holidays are filled with excited anticipation, happiness, and fond memories of holidays past. For others, the holidays may bring to the forefront a sense of anxiety, sadness, loss, disappointment, or even dread. Holidays have many different meanings to us. For some, the holidays are the high point of the year. For others, the holidays just don’t seem to live up to our expectations and fall far short of that “Hallmark Moment”. Maybe, disappointment comes in how things have changed and how different the holidays are now, in comparison with “the good old days.”
What is your attitude toward the holidays? Are you one who struggles with the holidays or who looks forward eagerly? For many caregivers, the added responsibilities of managing your loved one’s care can make it difficult to even think about the holidays, let alone celebrate them. Is it really possible to make the holidays meaningful when juggling these responsibilities?
As in most anything, our enjoyment of life all comes down to our thoughts and our attitudes. How can we, as one Christmas carol suggests, make this “the most wonderful time of the year?” Let’s look at 5 ways caregivers, families, and their aging loved ones can make the holidays more meaningful this year.
1. Change Your Expectations
Don’t get hung up on what the holidays are supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel. If you’re comparing your holidays to some abstract greeting card ideal, you may be setting yourself up for failure. So don’t worry about holiday spirit and take the holidays as they come. Simply look for the enjoyment available in each day. By trying to take the holidays as they come and limiting your expectations -- both good and bad -- you may enjoy them more.
2. Start a New Tradition
People often feel compelled to keep family holiday traditions alive long past the point that anyone’s actually enjoying them. Don’t keep them going for their own sake. Why not try a new holiday tradition instead? Create one that’s more meaningful to you personally. If you can’t celebrate with your loved at home, like always, bring the celebration to them – whether that be in a senior living community, a skilled nursing facility, a hospital, or wherever your loved one’s can gather.
3. Find Positive Ways to Remember Loved Ones
Holidays may remind you of loved ones who aren’t with us. But instead of just feeling glum, do something active to celebrate their memory. For instance, go out with your children to your loved one’s favorite restaurant and raise a glass in remembrance as you enjoy reminiscing.
4. Concentrate on Gratefulness
You may be thinking that the only way for you to feel happy is for certain circumstances in your life to change. Your loved one may feel the same, especially if he or she has dealt with a great deal of change, transition, or loss in the past year. Studies have shown that a sure path to happiness is not through changing things in our lives or gaining what we don’t have, but instead by being grateful for what we do have. Why not start a gratefulness practice? Each day write down three things that you are truly grateful for. Maybe you could even try doing this together with your loved one. Don’t like to write? Think of one thing you are grateful for before each meal. Gratefulness changes attitudes and increases enjoyment of life.
5. Focus on Giving from the Heart
In a season where gift giving can be downright expensive, exhausting, and stressful, why not make a practice of giving from the heart? This can be as simple as each day making sure you give a sincere compliment to someone who crosses your path. Or how about writing a letter of blessing to a loved one? Maybe you could tell someone how much you appreciate them. As you practice this form of kindness toward others you will find your heart filling with joy.
Whatever your circumstances and however you may feel as the holidays approach, my wish for you all is that your celebrations in this holiday season might bring to you meaning and enjoyment, blessing and love.
~ Chaplain Cathy
About Cathy Nickse
I joined the UMH family in July of 2015 and work as the Coordinator of Spiritual Care for our Wesley Village Campus, offering guidance and support to our residents, families, and staff. I began my Chaplain training at Griffin Hospital in Derby and completed my Chaplain training as a Resident Chaplain at Bridgeport Hospital in May of 2015. I work closely with members of the local community of faith to meet the spiritual needs of our residents; cultivating relationships, and ministering to the body, mind, and spirit.
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