Give Yourself the Gift of Grace: A reminder to be patient with yourself during the holiday season.

Sometimes the best you can do is just not very good.   Caring for an ill or elderly loved one, running a household, working full or part-time, and keeping yourself together can be very stressful.  You wake early in the morning, your to-do list is already overflowing, and you just remembered the things you forgot to do the day before.  On your way out of the door, you just saw one more thing that needs to be taken care of when your phone rings with another person asking you for something.  And on top of that, it’s the holiday season, with all of its demands and expectations.  There are decorations to be hung, presents to buy, and parties to attend.   Where does it end?

In addition to all of this, you may also be carrying around some very heavy emotions.

Caring for an elderly spouse or parent changes the holiday season.  The way things used to be is likely to be different this year.  If someone you love has been moved to an assisted living facility or nursing home, everyone has to make adjustments.  Will Christmas or Hanukkah be celebrated at the facility?  Will you have to arrange for your loved one to come home for the day?  Will she be okay at home?  What if something happens while she’s here?   You may be feeling very anxious about this new way of celebrating the holidays.  You may also be feeling very sad that things aren’t the way they used to be.  When holiday celebrations and traditions change, many people feel a sense of grief and loss.  This is a normal reaction to change, and it can be very difficult to deal with during a time that is supposed to be joyful and cheerful.

The roles we play also change when a spouse or parent is ill or frail.

When mom can no longer make the family dinner or your husband cannot hang the lights, someone else must fill in.  These changes in traditions and roles can be very hard to cope with as they are losses.  Sometimes people overlook the impact these losses can have on them.

Keep this in mind as you go through this holiday season.  When you feel as if you are not doing your best or if you are not as cheery as you think you should be, give yourself grace.  Grace is a way of being patient and kind with yourself.  It is acknowledging that you are doing your best, even if your best is not very good right now.  Remember that you are going through grief.  Many of our clients say, “but mom is still here…I should be happy that we get to still celebrate the holidays together.”  All changes, good and bad, can cause feelings of grief; and grief is a heavy emotion.

So, how do you deal with grief?

There is no way around grief, you must go through it.  Acknowledge your emotions, invite them to sit at the table with you, because once you do, they are much easier to deal with.  Our first reaction to hard feelings is usually to ignore them or push them away.  However, they don’t leave.   Have you ever gotten irrationally upset over something insignificant?  This may be an unacknowledged emotion coming to the surface.  So, acknowledge the difficulties you are having and talk about them with someone you trust.  There is usually no fixing those feelings, just patiently getting through them until you adapt to the new changes in your life.  This can be a hard process, and it helps to have someone you trust to talk to.  Call a friend, family member, or church member.  If your parent or spouse is living at a nursing facility or assisted living facility, talk with their staff or other family members.  More than likely your feelings are being experienced by other family members, and they may also need someone to talk to.

This season, remember to give yourself the gift of grace.