Coping with the Holidays

The seasons are changing and with the longer nights and cooler temperatures comes the holiday season to warm and brighten our days.  Every year is different, some holidays we remember were better than others but the rituals we keep practicing focus on our ideals and remind us of long ago events that define who we are today.  Holiday rituals can transform the ordinary ingredients of our lives in extraordinary ways.

Take for example the meals we often prepare for holidays.  We eat everyday but on holidays the food we eat takes on special importance.  We have to prepare certain foods in special ways and even how we present it and with whom we share it must be carefully planned.   When all is ready we devour it only after observing careful rituals like lighting candles, and making sure that everyone has enough on their plate.  This shared event is the substance of belonging and enjoyment, and takes everyone doing their part to help.

From stories of holiday’s past shared with many different people at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center I have learned that a cancer diagnosis often does change what is typical for a holiday tradition, but it doesn’t have to ruin it.  A cancer diagnosis might mean a change to holiday travel plans, cutting back on decorations, imposed diet restrictions, limits to the number of guests, and limits to gift giving.  Sometimes anticipating those changes adds up to a feeling of dread about the approaching holidays.  No one wants to be the left out of the festivities, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.

Recognizing the challenges, fears, and disappointments that come with the holidays is an important first step.  Communicating with loved ones about those changes is also important.  Setting out to hold what is most cherished about a holiday presents us with new opportunities to rethink the meaning behind all our activities.  Sometimes that means being open to changes and starting new traditions to capture the intent of the holiday.  It is even okay to skip a holiday once in a while, especially when it means focusing on your health.  Holidays will come around again next year.

Helping others is often at the heart of holiday traditions.  Giving a gift is precious and giving to help someone else give is rewarding on a whole new level.  For caregivers the gift may be in helping with the practical everyday events like cooking, shopping, and setting up decorations.   Often it just boils down to this.  Holidays are times to make ordinary things extraordinary by taking time to recognize value in what we normally take for granted.

More resources for helping cope with the holidays are:

  • Crafts and Conversation with Wendy Slattery, December 9th , 2:30-4:30 at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center
  • Hope for the Holidays – Chaplaincy Healthcare, December 10th  12:00 pm – 2:00 pm.  This class is available to help grieving people deal with the stress, loneliness and confusion of the holiday season. Call Wanda at (509) 783-6243 for more information or to register.

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