Senior Living Advice: Holidays can bring both joy, sadness

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By Beth Dow, Certified Senior Advisor

Holidays bring joy, laughter, family, and friends.  But the holidays can also bring sadness, tears, and isolation.

This Christmas, more than ever, many may be feeling a greater sadness than they have experienced before. It often comes out of the blue.

On my way home from the grocery store, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” came on the radio.  And as those of us of a certain age will do, I of course turned the volume up!

And as the lyrics filled my car, my mind traveled through countless thoughts: What a great song…what a great band they were… how Adam Lambert is a perfect addition to the band…but no one can replace Freddie… how sad it is that Freddie died so young…my momma is dead.

And then came the tears.  Out of nowhere.

My momma died in June.  She had Alzheimer’s, and because the disease stole who she was early, I often have said that I lost “my momma” years ago. But while she was here on Earth, I could see her, I could touch her, I still had a momma.  But not this year.

There are many of us spending Christmas without a loved one this year. Some are separated through death, some due to distance and some because of COVID-19.

COVID-19 and the restrictions placed on us to combat the disease has added an entirely new layer to the sadness that the holidays can bring.

While the sadness may come, it is important that it not “park” and develop into the dominate feeling. It is essential that we do not allow the sadness to take away the joy of the season for us and for those we love.

December will have many pretty, not too cold days.  So, go outside! Get vitamin D – some sunshine and fresh air. Even just 15 minutes a day will make you feel better.

If you can, get in some exercise.  Group exercise opportunities are best, but if that is not feasible, exercise with other folks around, walk around your neighborhood, on the LINC or the Thread.  Just seeing other people, being around other people will boost your mood and have a positive impact on your well-being.

Go see family and friends.  You can maintain your distance and wear a mask or visit outside.  But make contact.  If not in person, call them.  

For many people, the holiday season is one of the few times they connect with loved ones. Don’t let this holiday season pass without making those connections.

Let others know that you are struggling. Share your feelings.  In our Facebook world of everyone posting their perfect lives, it is easy for those who are struggling to feel like they are the only ones feeling the way they do.  It helps to know there is someone that understands.

Find a place to volunteer.  This puts you around other people and it just feels good to help someone else.

If you have lost a loved one this year, if you miss family, holiday traditions, and the way holidays “used to be”, know that these feelings are normal and appropriate. Acknowledge them, share them, and find ways to bring bits of joy back into your life and the lives of those you love.

Beth Dow is a Dementia and Alzheimer’s Educator, CAEd, Geriatric Care Manager and Certified Senior Advisor. Contact her at [email protected].

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