Are you finding yourself feeling depressed this holiday season?
In every culture, there are special days that bring back memories of home and loved ones.
Those special days can feel bitter sweet when you are dealing with loss. The pain becomes intensified.
You don’t want to deal with happy people because you just can’t feel happy. There is just no faking it.
Do you just wish the holidays were over?
Somehow, when the world is celebrating, loneliness is magnified.
John was a patient of mine for many years. He absolutely loved the holidays.
His devoted wife was a beautiful energetic lady who was always busy doing something creative. She had an unbelievable garden, lots of cats and dogs, she loved to bake and used to have a delicious care package to give me whenever I visited.
Every Christmas, she turned their home into a winter wonderland. It was quite a treat, since the hot humid Hawaiian afternoon just didn’t feel like Christmas to this Montana girl!
I have fond memories of sitting at their kitchen table drinking hot cocoa with candy canes. (With the air conditioning, it almost felt like winter!)
I remember Ida telling me about her challenges making her traditional Christmas dishes without salt. John really looked forward to the family celebration, but usually ended up in the hospital before the new year. To much salt, wine, and fun always did him in.
John would say, “Ida, I’m only gonna live once, it wouldn’t be Christmas without your famous Christmas dinner!”
Every year with the house looking like a post card, the two of them would greet their kids, grand-kids, and extended family for the wildest celebration you have ever seen. My favorite part was singing Christmas carols by the bonfire.
Their family was full of so much love, you could feel it in the air.
Five years ago, John passed away a few days after Thanksgiving.
Ida faced her life without him. She couldn’t celebrate the holiday. Her family tried everything to get her to join them at their homes, or even a Christmas vacation for the whole family.
She even refused visitors throughout the holiday season.
I was concerned about her depression, and encouraged her not to isolate herself.
She told me, “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. It’s just so awkward. Everyone is afraid to mention John, but I just can’t stop thinking about him. I don’t want to stop thinking about him.”
That year Ida broke my heart. I was hopeful that she would get through the next holiday season a little easier, but watched her withdraw even more.
It was very painful to see this wonderful woman, who was once so full of love and life, swallowed up by depression, closing herself off from every one, waiting to die.
John and Ida’s kids were as devastated as she was, but knew that they had to move on. Eventually they talked Ida into selling the house and moving to a “senior villa”. Their argument was money, but they were really hoping to bring her back to life, and see her happy again.
Selling the house meant cleaning out 50 years worth of memories. No getting around it. It had to be done.
In the process, Ida’s children heard story after story of family vacations, camping trips, birthday celebrations and Christmas past. At one point there was a crowd gathered around a box full of pictures with tears and laughter and memories worth repeating to John’s great grand-children and their grand-children.
John was with us that day. Ida was able to cherish his memory for the first time in several years. It was a healing experience for her.
She’s not quite the same Ida she was before she lost John, but she is Ida again. I knew she had so much more to give.
This year Ida told me that she is sending her clan off on a skiing trip. Even the youngest grand-child is excited to test their skills on the slopes.
Ida saw the suspicious look in my eye, and reassured me that she wasn’t closing herself off again.
“I had such a happy life with John. We always had so much love around us. Our kids are filled with that love. Losing John made me realize just how lonely the world can feel. My kids don’t need me, but a lot of people do. People who will never know the love that I took for granted my whole life.”
Christmas dinner at the mission will be prepared and served with an extra measure of love this year, and many children will open Christmas presents without knowing the love with which they were wrapped.
If you need help getting through the holidays
- Make healthy habits a priority. Eat light and healthy as much as possible and make sure to get plenty of exercise. (activity)
- Expect the holidays to cause stress for everyone, be forgiving and patient.
- Say yes only to the things you really want to do.
- Plan ahead, don’t spend more than you budget for gifts.
- Keep realistic expectations, or better yet, don’t have any.
- Take time to be alone. Relax and be still, you won’t feel nearly so stressed when you return to the crowd.
- If you are grieving, know that there isn’t a right or wrong way, just your way. Express your feelings and reach out to others.
- Volunteer your time. Making the holiday brighter for the less fortunate can cheer you more than you will know.
Hugging your loved ones more than you normally do might top it all off nicely!
Carrie Tucker, RCP
The Life Breath Coach
Heart Failure Solutions
PS– Remember everyday:
- Relax and Release tension
- Exhale Slowly
- Be active in a way that adds joy to your life
Plus pure water ~whole foods~sunshine~and laughter