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The Caregiver's Cairn: Holiday Blues

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Jane Barton

Blog by Jane Barton

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. It is a busy time of year with the various holidays unfolding at warp speed. The pace is physically fatiguing. The season can also be emotionally draining. As such, self care is a high priority and thus the topic du jour!

Although the holidays are portrayed in the media as the most joyous season of the year, the holidays are anything but joyous for those of us grieving the death of a loved one or another significant loss. Instead, the holidays highlight the losses and intensify the subsequent grief. Is it any wonder that so many people dread this time of year? Well, like it or not, the holidays are here! So, what are we to do if we feel blue? Perhaps the best advice is to have realistic expectations of the holidays, ourselves, and others.

Regardless of the vintage of our losses, the holidays serve to magnify the absence of someone and/or something in our lives. We suffer a myriad of losses over the course of a lifetime. We lose loved ones (human and pets), relationships, employment, money, purpose, identity, health, and home. All of our losses create voids that become more poignant during the festive, holiday season. Recent losses usually prompt the most intense, painful grief reactions; however, the holidays also trigger ancient memories that leave us longing for times past. Consequently, the holidays are a bittersweet season for many people. So, if you are feeling a bit blue this year, you are in good company!

However, all is not lost! There is HOPE for the holidays if you recognize and accept the reality of your situation. And the reality is this. Because of your loss, the holidays will be different. You are different. And other people may treat you differently. Yet, despite the differences, remain hopeful that you will once again choose to engage, embrace, and enjoy the holidays. The first step in transcending the holiday blues is taking care of yourself. Consider the following suggestions:

*   Surround yourself with loving and supportive friends and family.
*   Be gentle with yourself.
*   Know that you will feel blue periodically.
*   Believe that in the midst of your sadness, joy remains a possibility.
*   Rest well and often.
*   Allow your emotions to flow. Feel what you feel when you feel it.
*   Create new holiday rituals and traditions.
*   Give to others - serve others in need.
*   Balance solitude with community.
*   Speak of your loss with those who care.
*   Know that the anticipation of the holidays is worse than the reality.
*   Accept the help and support of family, friends, and professionals.
*   Trust you will survive the holidays.

The holiday blues - a daunting consequence of a significant loss. My hope is that your path unfolds in amazing, restorative, and inspiring ways this holiday season. As my mom would advise, 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< mailto: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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