November is National Family Caregivers Month, and with Thanksgiving coming up this week, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the complex and wide range of emotions that come up during the holidays. I have a very clear memory of my dad’s last Christmas I keep going back to. My family was gathered around the Christmas tree when James Taylor’s cover of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” came on and I made an excuse to run upstairs so nobody would see me cry.
We were all exhausted from supporting my dad through his battle with pancreatic cancer and had no idea how much or how little time we had left with him, so we were just running on adrenaline all the time. My friends were so busy with their careers and young families–I didn’t want to bother anyone with the thoughts that kept me up at night. I don’t even think I even knew how to ask for help.
I knew I would regret not being present with my family, and luckily, another of my dad’s favorite holiday songs he put on that playlist, Eric Idle’s “F*** Christmas,” got me to smile and wipe my eyes and rejoin my family downstairs. Playlists (and before that, mix CDs and mix tapes) were his love language.
The holidays may not feel like “the most wonderful time of the year” for someone having a tough time (with grief, a breakup, the loss of a job, what have you) or going through treatment for an illness, which could be related to a mental or physical health issue. Same goes for someone who is caring someone who’s struggling.
“Call me if you need me” is not the best idea, as it puts pressure on that person to ask you, which can feel really challenging, or they may even feel too overwhelmed to know what to ask you for. Here are a few ways you can be supportive.
Ways to Offer Support During The Holidays
-Cook them healthy meals, buy them groceries, or get them a gift card to their favorite healthy meal services
-Clean their home or yard
-Help with holiday shopping, cooking, gift-wrapping, or decorating
-Watch their children or pets
-Drive them to appointments or run errands with them
-Offer to host holiday gatherings if they have done it in the past
-Listen to their thoughts and concerns and be there for them
-Create new traditions that help them celebrate in a way that is suited to their physical and mental state
-Treat them to a beauty service they enjoy, at their home if they’re not up to going to a salon or spa
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of support during times you were dealing with a health issue or caring for someone who was, what made a difference for you?