While increased holiday and caregiver stress may be obvious, it’s not always clear that grief may be adding to it.
Most people don’t automatically think about things like end of life issues or memorial gravestones during the holidays. They’re supposed to be a happy time of memories and family, right?
When you’re a family or professional caregiver, this time of year can be challenging and lead to increased caregiver stress.
People get sick during the holidays, and there can be feelings or memories of grieving mixed in with more traditional happy ones. Or maybe you’re coping with grief—either for someone who is ill or has passed this year or during this time of year.
You’re not alone.
I know. Two close family members passed during December and one of my youngest patients passed a few days before Christmas one year, which changed how I view the holidays.
Now in addition to joy filled memories of childhood, there are also sad memories of caring for those who became ill, and some who finished their Journey during the holidays.
It would be easy to dwell on the sad things that have occurred to those I care about during the holidays. And focusing on it seems to increase it—and can lead to increased stress.
One day I started looking at it from a different angle. Instead of grieving for what might have been, or what was lost…
What if I had not been there? Who would have held their hands, offered a smile, sat with them?
That’s when I found the peace of being privileged to help when they were not at their best. Of easing their pain, offering a smile, holding their hand or just being there.
Of touching a heart with love. Isn’t that what the holidays are really about?
How can you reduce holiday caregiver stress?
- Planning ahead can help. Do you have someone you can call to help? How about two or more folks just in case one is not available?
- Have you considered reducing your caregiver stress through delegating holiday tasks to someone else? Maybe it’s time another family member takes over for you. At least for this year.
- Watching a favorite holiday movie on DVD or TV can also give you a needed respite. How about playing recordings of your and your loved one’s favorite Christmas carols?
- Even if you don’t feel like decorating the whole house, how about a little Christmas decorating? Maybe a tabletop tree? A little Christmas decorating in an invalid’s room can make a world of difference.
- Remember to laugh—one of the fastest caregiver stress relievers known!
Knowing you are not alone in your caregiving stress can make all the difference.
Now there’s a community you can join to connect with other caregivers, together more than surviving – thriving in giving care. The Caregiver’s Heart membership was created by a caregiver for caregivers. And now you can try it yourself for 7 days for only 1 cent.
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From my heart to yours… Laugh Well, Love Well and Live Well!
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”