Grief in the Holidays: Losses Experienced in Caregiving

It felt like a heaviness in the pit of her stomach…as December started, Delia felt a whirl of emotion with the approaching Christmas season. Her mom had slowly been declining with Parkinson’s disease and lewy body dementia. Her mom and dad were making it through, but she knew this Christmas would be very different because her mom had decline a lot in the last year. And with COVID it didn’t feel safe to take them many places. The grief she felt at these losses was intense, but how could she let herself grieve when mom was still here. She should appreciate the time she has with mom, even if different. After all some of her friend weren’t able to be with their parents. As much as she hated to admit it, she knew she needed to let herself grieve the losses instead of pushing it out.

Delia’s story is not uncommon. The holiday season with the memory of seasons past and the reality of this season and how it’s different can evoke some strong emotion. It’s important to acknowledge and give space for the grief that comes. When we give ourselves that, it frees up space to be able to appreciate what we have. Here are

5 Ways to Cope with Grief as a Caregiver:

1)Acknowledge and give yourself permission to grieve the losses that have happened. Recognize the emotions that are a part of that and speak it or write it to help tame it

2)Take time to talk about some of the things you have enjoyed about your loved one and your past holidays together 

3)Take good care of your body and mind. It is easier to have the space to cope and enjoy the season when you are eating well, exercising, sleeping well, practicing your spiritual disciplines, and saying “no” to things that drain you unnecessarily.

4)Find a way to enjoy some of the things you have enjoyed with your loved in the past but do it different

                             -If they aren’t able to participate, do it with someone else

                  -If they can participate but not to the same extent, do a smaller

                  version of what you usually do together                                               

5)Pick something new to do with or for your loved one that you can enjoy together now

3 Ways to Ask for Support in Your Grief:

1)Ask someone who is a good listener to let you talk out what you are going through

2)Ask for help with household or other responsibilities to ease your load

3)Ask for a hug or just to be together without words

“Grief looks, feels, and shows up differently to each person. Just like no two losses are alike, no two griefs are alike, either. You cannot know the full depth of another person’s experience and they cannot know the full depth of yours.”

Shelby Forsythia, in her book, Permission to Grieve

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