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The Caregiver’s Cairn: Holiday Blues Revisited

JB2

Greetings one and all...

Welcome back to The Caregiver’s Cairn - a sustaining and empowering guide for caregivers and care receivers. I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely month since my last posting. I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, curl up in a cozy chair, and take a deep breath. No doubt, we can all use a little break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season—an opportunity to intentionally reflect on this special time of year. I have always loved the holidays. As a child, I relished our family traditions and rituals, many of which revolved around cooking and eating. Two of my favorite things! Such wonderful memories of holidays past. And yet, those same memories serve as poignant reminders of the painful losses in my life—family members and friends who have died and whose absence is highlighted during the holidays. Consequently, the holidays can be an emotional rollercoaster for me.

It’s important to have realistic expectations of the holidays—for yourself and for others. The holidays can be hard! Although movies, television, and the internet portray the holidays as joyous from beginning to end, the reality of the season is quite different for many (if not most) people. The contrast between how we feel and how we are supposed to feel serves to intensify our emotional angst. So, give yourself permission to feel what you feel when you feel it. Furthermore, encourage others to do the same thing. Accept that there will be emotional highs and lows. Believe that you can navigate both the rough waters and the calm seas. Trust that there are better days ahead. By so doing, you will experience the bittersweet nature of the holidays—a realistic expectation.

I had my fair share of ups and downs this Thanksgiving. As I prepared the turkey for our Thanksgiving meal, I watched a holiday movie on television. The storyline was quite familiar—family members coming home to celebrate the season with loved ones. Hearth and home. Parents, children, and grandchildren. Memorable moments and traditions. As I watched the scene unfold on the screen, I felt a familiar, painful longing welling up inside. I longed to “go home.” I ached to walk into my mom’s kitchen and smell the familiar smells, see the familiar faces, and embrace my family. Although my parents died decades ago, my desire to “go home” lives on. So every year, I am a wee bit homesick. And with every passing year, I become more adept at tempering my sadness with a dose of authentic, current joy. There is no magical formula for eradicating the holiday blues. But, you can create a recipe for effectively dealing with the holiday blues. Consider including the following ingredients in your holiday recipe:

•    Spend time with loving and supportive friends and family.
•    Be gentle with yourself.
•    Expect twinges of sadness from time to time.
•    Believe that joy is possible.
•    Take time to rest well and often.
•    Let your emotions flow. Feel what you feel when you feel it.
•    Be creative—initiate new holiday traditions and rituals.
•    Serve others—offer your time, talents, and treasures.
•    Discover a balance between solitude and community.
•    Talk about your sources of sadness.
•    Allow the holidays to pleasantly surprise you.
•    Ask for and receive help from family and friends.
•    Trust you will survive the holidays.
•    Take one step at a time.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

 

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging,  serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.
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