First, try to place less emphasis on the holidays and more on spending time together. A few ideas you and your Utah senior can use to prevent or beat the blues include:
- Utilize video chat: Loneliness during the holiday season can contribute to feeling blue. But adult children with busy schedules might struggle to find time to visit an aging parent more frequently during the holiday rush. Take advantage of video chat services like Skype to talk “face-to-face” when you can’t be there in person.
- Practice good nutrition: It isn’t uncommon for a senior who lives alone to skimp on good nutrition. Healthy foods are more expensive and often take more time to prepare. Add to that the cravings most of us get for sugary treats and carb-heavy comfort foods when we are feeling down. If you think poor nutrition is an on-going struggle, explore the senior nutrition and meals on wheels programs near them. Most operate on a sliding scale fee based on income.
- Make time for exercise: The endorphins released by exercising are one of the very best methods for naturally treating the blues and depression. Walking together can be a good way to start. You could also try Tai Chi or Chair Yoga either at a local fitness center or buy purchasing DVDs to use at home.
- Volunteering to improve health: Time and again researchers have found the health benefits an older adult receives from volunteering their time can be life-changing. Senior volunteers have lower incidences of chronic health conditions and depression.
- Have a good laugh. Laughter really is good medicine. Take time this holiday season just to enjoy your senior loved one’s company and share a few laughs. It might be at the local comedy club or a night out at the movies. Humor and laughter lift the spirits.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years
These are the biggest and usually most challenging of all. You can and will get through the Holidays. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. It is not the grief you want to avoid, it is the pain. Grief is the way out of the pain. Grief is our internal feelings and mourning is our external expressions.
Ways to Cope
Have a Plan A/Plan B – Plan A is you go to the Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends. If it doesn’t feel right, have your plan B ready. Plan B may be a movie you both liked or a photo album to look through or a special place you went to together. Many people find that when they have Plan B in place, just knowing it is there is enough. Cancel the Holiday altogether. Yes, you can cancel the Holiday. If you are going through the motions and feeling nothing, cancel them. Take a year off. They will come around again.
Grief has a unique way of giving us the permission to really evaluate what parts of the Holidays you enjoy and what parts you don’t. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to handle the Holidays in grief. You have to decide what is right for you and do it. You have every right to change your mind, even a few times.
It is very natural to feel you may never enjoy the Holidays again. They will certainly never be the same as they were. However, in time, most people are able to find meaning again in the traditions as a new form of the Holiday Spirit grows inside of them. Even without grief, our friends and relatives often think they know how our Holidays should look, what “the family” should and shouldn’t do.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do be gentle with yourself and protect yourself.
- Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not serve your soul and your loss.
- Do allow time for the feelings.
- Do allow others to help. We all need help at certain times in our lives.
- Don’t ask if you can help or should help a friend in grief. Just help. Find ways; invite them to group events or just out for coffee.
- Do, in grief, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often the forgotten grievers.