Holidays: Often depressing for those grieving the loss of a loved one

The holidays are usually stressful for most of us but I’m finding that for our parents or older relatives it is an unusually stressful and depressing time.

I was recently conversing with a caregiver in regard to their personal experience with anxiety and depression in their elderly parents during the holidays, as well as their own tensions they were experiencing this time of year. Her parent in-law was a widow and November through December seemed to be a particularly stressful, depressing time for them, even though they are surrounded with family at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Not only does the season remind them of their loss but the entire family feels the absence of an integral member.

Sibling issues can also get heated at this time of year, especially when an out-of-town brother or sister comes to visit and, offering what they think of as advice, is instead taken as unasked for criticism by the care-giving family member. Misunderstandings intensify and the fight is on.

Add that to the caregiver’s stress of shopping for presents, planning, cleaning and cooking for holiday gatherings, transporting a parent during inclement winter weather, kids home for the holidays… and it is no wonder that the ho-ho-ho has literally been sucked out of the holidays.

So, how do we get a handle on our stress and help our parents with theirs? We agreed that if we take care of ourselves by planning ahead and not biting off more than we can handle (delegate!), ask for help, really make a concerted effort to listen to our own feelings and in turn, be a good listener (not a reactor) to others, then we’d be on the right track.

We also need to be mindful that the holidays represent a change in the daily schedule and can be overwhelming for an elderly parent – try to stay tuned in to their needs. Just make sure that they have something as simple as a comfy chair; keep an eye out for fatigue and a readiness to head home.

Doing these simple things can make the day so much more enjoyable for all.

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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